A New Navigation for Chronic Conditions

In the first of a series of podcasts centered around Healthline Media’s Whole Person Health Initiative, MM+M’s editor-in-chief Steve Madden asked Kate Gallagher, VP of marketing at Healthline Media, to share the company’s overall mission and how this initiative, a program created to supply those living with chronic conditions the information needed to better navigate their health journey, came to fruition.

“When we started looking into the data, we discovered a few elements we wanted to highlight,” Gallagher said. “People were reporting they had all these different needs outside of treating their chronic condition that were impacting their overall health and well-being and, essentially, every aspect of their lives.

“We really wanted to dig into why this was happening,” she continued, “and to see if they were getting the help and the information they needed in order to navigate these things.”

Once the data began to take shape, Gallagher noted four main areas came into focus: diet and nutrition; mental health; complementary health; and financial wellness, the former two fueling the focus of this first podcast conversation.

While there is no shortage of digital content on diet and nutrition, as Madden pointed out, Gallagher shared that more often than not, that content does not apply to those with chronic conditions — something Healthline Media discovered firsthand from its own readers.

“People were coming to our media properties for help and were having to cobble together information,” she said. “For example, they’d find articles on foods that reduce inflammation but not necessarily within the context of their specific condition.”

Gallagher said by identifying exactly how these individuals were seeking information, the team was able to take the next step in creating customized content.

“We started to see patterns,” she explained. “For example, 33% of people who visited psoriasis content visited nutrition content immediately after.”

Another important statistic the team uncovered was that only 1% to 2% of those searching for nutrition content had actually ever worked with a registered  dietitian or nutritionist.

“A lot of it is access related,” she noted, “but, in addition, many people don’t believe the person giving the advice knows enough about their bodies.”

When prompted by Madden to share how Healthline is using this information to define nutrition within the context of these different chronic conditions, Gallagher said the team tries to strike the right balance between medical information and community interaction.  

“People are looking for a combination of knowledge and validation,” she said. “Many rely heavily on advice from their support groups on different diets to follow, etc., so we’re accelerating that step by working with people with these conditions who’ve tried these things, and then having our medical team evaluate them as a way to address them directly but in a safe and reliable way for our audience.”

Gallagher shared that while these online community support groups have always been important to their readers, they have become a lifeline over this past year, with the pandemic causing people to experience even greater isolation.

“Taking care of your mental health is crucial for anyone’s health and well-being,” she said, “but it’s absolutely essential for those with chronic conditions, as they are already at an increased risk for anxiety and depression.”

Unfortunately, for those with chronic conditions, Gallagher noted, finding a mental healthcare provider they truly connect with is often a needle in a haystack. Many people also face barriers when seeking referrals or insurance coverage, due to stigmas often associated with many chronic conditions.

“As we work to reduce these barriers, we help to reduce the stigmas,” she explained. Part of that has been making sure that not only do they have access to treatment when needed, but that they can find therapists and other professionals who look or speak like them, and have had similar experiences. Helping to make these connections for people has become a critical part of how Healthline Media is thinking about not only our future as a company, but our impact in the mental health space.”