Last week, MM+M published its COVID-19 Health Media Report Card, in which a range of experts weighed in on questions around the media’s coverage of the pandemic. Here, we present their answers to an additional question.
Who are the health experts and personalities – whether mainstream ones, social media figures or anyone else – to whom you pay attention on a regular basis? What makes them so compelling?
David Bowen, Ph.D., head of policy and advocacy, Klick Health: I’ve had the privilege of working with Tony Fauci and Peter Hotez and value their work, so I place a great deal of trust in what they have to say on the pandemic and vaccines. Although I don’t know them personally, Esther Choo and Ashish Jha have also been thoughtful commentators on the pandemic and vaccines. All of them combine profound scientific expertise with a commitment to truth-telling. –
Andrea Palmer, president, Publicis Health Media: Before 2020, was there ever a moment we imagined Dr. Fauci on the cover of InStyle? Or as a recurring character on Saturday Night Live? Health experts became a new class of celebrity in 2021, and for good reason. They’ve brought the human truths of this pandemic to the forefront, using their expertise, reputations and often their own personal platforms to bridge the gap between perception and reality – while even managing to have some lighthearted moments along the way.
I’ve tuned into doctors like Vin Gupta, Ashish Jha, Lipi Roy, Nahid Badelia, Kavita Patel and Esther Choo, who have bought clear-eyed medical perspective as well as actionable advice to audiences across the country. And of course, I’ve been closely following how many other science and medical experts have taken social media by storm to connect with and entertain people of all ages while helping share resonant health messaging. I definitely fell into TikTok, like so many other Americans this past year. Some of my favorites include Dr. Austin Chang, Dr. Jason Campbell and, it should go without saying, Bill Nye—a nostalgic favorite for my generation.
Ann Brown, EVP, marketing, Health Media Network: Dr. Fauci has been a constant and trusted voice. His honesty and humility are very appealing. He doesn’t back down and admits when he gets it wrong. And Dr. Aaron Carroll is a health policy expert who’s taken a straightforward and truthful approach to the pandemic. He’s a great communicator who tells it like it is but doesn’t do so in a scary way.
Myles Helfand, executive editor, TheBody and TheBodyPro: I gravitate toward the people who are the most genuine, the most unvarnished and the least partisan, and strive for clarity and honesty. Those who are loyal to what the science shows, what the science does not show and what it has not determined yet. Such individuals include Anthony Fauci, Julia Marcus, Oni Blackstock, Uche Blackstock, David Malebranche and John Swartzberg: Real people using real language to talk about the reality of the health issues we face.
Carly Kuper, SVP, public relations and corporate communications, CMI Media Group: The people. During the pandemic we have been leveraging social media listening to get an understanding of what people are saying collectively, and it’s been fascinating to see the trends there. Within this has emerged a strong collective voice of HCPs who are incredibly active on social media and who have been using it to educate people. There has also emerged a strong voice of people with chronic disease who have been impacted in different ways by this pandemic, showing a new evolution of the empowered patient.
Dr. John Whyte, chief medical officer, WebMD: Having worked in government, I pay attention to the CDC, FDA and NIH. I also look at Johns Hopkins, which has done an excellent job reporting data. More broadly, I follow Dr. Juan Rivera at Univision and Dr. Sanjay Gupta at CNN.
Craig Mait, president and chief revenue officer, Mesmerize: Twitter continues to be our preferred social media platform for the latest on COVID-19. We still follow Governor Andrew Cuomo for regular and reliable updates on New York’s COVID-19 progress. We continue to rely on the CDC to track cases in the U.S. and for information to protect ourselves and our communities. We try to listen to the medical professionals giving proper information, like Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
Elliot Fox, senior group director, media and engagement, W2O: It’s difficult to pinpoint a few experts who I track on a regular basis, especially since it was a critical year to digest multiple perspectives from a variety of people/parties and understand how various events were being communicated in 2020. Jared Hopkins at The Wall Street Journal has done an excellent job sharing updates on social and his reporting has been expansive – providing updates on vaccine approvals, what companies are doing to get employees vaccinated and more. Of course, the team at STAT – Adam Feuerstein, Damian Garde, Matt Herper and Helen Branswell – is important to track, as they provide excellent updates and coverage relating to the pandemic, but with provocative and timely insights in pharma, biotech and digital health.
Rob Parisi, SVP and GM, Verywell: The New York Times is a great resource. They are very good at organizing data and utilizing visualizations. Also, Helen Branswell, a senior writer at STAT, seems to be ahead of the curve when it comes to identifying trends and important topics that have not yet fully emerged.
Rachel Berman, SVP and GM, Verywell: The compelling health media personalities are the ones who use social media platforms to dispel common perceptions about health in a way that is engaging and based in science. Some of my favorites are Dr. Kelly Fradin, a pediatrician creating amazing Reels on Instagram with empathetic, real-talk advice about parenting during the pandemic. Shana Minei Spence uses letter boards to dispel myths about diet culture and send positive, science-backed messages about nutrition.
Linda Ruschau, chief client officer, PatientPoint: Actual physicians and other healthcare providers are a powerful source of truth in healthcare and can paint the most poignant picture of the industry. That said, I found myself seeking out physician voices more than ever over the past year. From the earliest days of the pandemic, we could count on Dr. Gary LeRoy to provide thoughtful, candid perspective on COVID-19 and the continued importance of safe, in-person care. As an Ohio resident I also greatly admired Dr. Amy Acton, former director of the Ohio Department of Health, who received national attention for her leadership of Ohio’s initial COVID-19 response. Dr. Acton is a fantastic communicator and explained the risks of COVID through an impactful yet easy-to-understand approach.