Verywell Health has debuted Health Divide, an ambitious content initiative designed to address the health disparities and less favorable outcomes long endured by Black women.
The first condition featured in the series will be breast cancer, with psoriasis and uterine fibroids among the other topics covered. As part of each condition focus, Verywell will partner with a nonprofit organization working within the category.
According to Verywell Health GM and VP Sara Michael, the company views the initiative as both a resource and a responsibility. “There has been an absolute need to address these issues in a specific and concerted way for a long time,” she said. “We felt there was a gap here, because these disparities are not addressed broadly on consumer sites.”
Content will include patient stories, “Ask the Expert” opportunities for direct engagement and more. However, Verywell is taking a different approach from previous programs with similar aims.
“There’s a need to be bold in how we’re tackling it,” she stressed. “Obviously we want to do this right – but frankly, we really want to make it look good. We want this to be a destination.”
That’s easier said than done. In the wake of the killing of George Floyd and the #BlackLivesMatter movement that ensued, any number of health publishers made noise about going all-in on content related to health inequities. After a few months, though, their attention turned elsewhere.
Dr. Jessica Shepherd, Verywell Health’s chief medical officer, understands the challenges that come with attempting to present a breadth of engaging health coverage. At the same time, she stressed that Verywell is invested in Health Divide for the long haul.
“The content will be updated. It can live in different ways, too, whether through video or live sessions,” she noted. “We’ll keep being creative and ahead of the curve in our curation and ability to inspire.”
Verywell can do so in concert with parent company Dotdash, which established its Anti-Bias Review Board late last year. Michael expects to tap the board’s experts, which include public health expert Dr. Shamard Charles, for everything from broader advice on DE&I-related health trends to specific language choices (e.g., “is this the right word or terminology?”).
“We’re not just changing our content. We’re also educating ourselves within the company,” Shepherd said.
That, in fact, may be the most unique aspect of Health Divide: Verywell’s willingness to collaborate with anyone who can help make the program more useful and thoughtful.
“To do this right, you have to partner with the people who are closest to the conditions we’re covering,” Michael noted, lauding the role the Breast Cancer Research Foundation played in developing the initiative’s first round of content. “They’re directly involved and they work with patients every day. If we’re going to hit the right topics and present content in a meaningful way, that collaboration will be so important.”