It’s almost quaint to look at the 2019 Health Influencer 50 roster to see what our concerns were last year, before anybody had heard of COVID-19. That list included people who urged us to stretch more and to sit up straight, to work out harder and to eat healthier. It included some celebrities, some politicians and some government officials, and represented a pretty diverse view of the entire health spectrum. Like I said: quaint.
This year’s list, as you might well imagine, is different. We feature a big-name celebrity — Tom Hanks — but only because he was one of the first public figures to contract the disease and use his social media platforms to warn people of COVID-19’s dangers. We feature politicians, largely because of their work on bringing relief to Americans suffering from the fallout of the pandemic. And government officials? Look no farther than the cover of the magazine. In this, the year the world was turned on its head, a pizza-loving infectious disease expert from farthest Brooklyn is the most influential person in American health.
The Health Influencer 50 list is an annual joint venture between MM+M and our Haymarket Media stablemate PRWeek. This list skews heavily toward those involved in marketing communications — getting the word out about health-related issues. That includes people such as Merck CEO Ken Frazier, one of only a handful of Black CEOs in the Fortune 500, who has used his bully pulpit as leader of one of the largest and most influential companies in the world to speak out about racial injustices, and not just through the prism of healthcare inequities. It doesn’t hurt that Frazier has a comms background.
My sense — and my fervent hope — is that at this time next year, the 2021 HI50 will be celebrating the people who helped communicate to the world about the efficacy and value of new vaccines that bring the pandemic to heel. Nothing about this experience has been easy or simple, and spreading the word about the value and safety of a vaccine will no doubt come with its own challenges. But the work of those communicators will build on the very good work of the people on the 2020 HI50 list. And that the 2022 list is full of people urging us to exercise, stretch and eat healthy food.