Every reader identifies with experiencing challenges during difficult conversations with friends and loved ones. Healthy Conversations provides a new and innovative approach to help readers find thoughtful words when talking about sensitive health issues.
With the recent resurfacing of measles, the team at Verywell saw an opportunity to promote education in communities who may not fully understand the importance, necessity, and history of vaccines.
And since the vaccine debate has always been contentious, the team knew it could provide a valuable resource in which those looking for help and guidance could really engage.
Verywell’s Healthy Conversations Coach empowers people to embrace difficult health topics, like vaccination, rather than shy away from them, and equips them with information and conversation prompts. Verywell believes that the more prepared and educated people are for having difficult discussions about health and disease, the more fluid and productive the conversation and the better the overall outcome.
Moreover, talking about health and disease can be sensitive and scary, so it’s understandable that people are inclined to avoid those conversations. Verywell’s mission is to give users the tools to facilitate an informed, actionable, and insightful conversation that soothes fears instead of adding to them. By reframing the way people approach difficult health topics, Verywell opens the door to regularly and easily talking about health.
With that, Verywell’s Healthy Conversations Coach addresses many of the universal issues surrounding vaccines and offers an encouraging entrance to discussion, continuing dialogue, and ultimately more willingness to approach physicians.
Based on Verywell’s proprietary survey, the team found that 1 in 5 Americans disagree with friends, family, or loved ones about vaccines. Of those disagreeing, over 40% seek out tools or advice for how to talk about vaccines, and 1 in 3 say that communication techniques would be helpful.
Verywell saw and responded to that need by creating the Healthy Conversations Coach to help promote vaccination and navigate the often complicated and emotionally charged discussions that come with it.
First, the team had to understand the pain points of each side of the vaccination argument. That meant exploring how to best engage with those arguments—the team reviewed numerous articles and videos that examine the intricacies of the overall vaccine debate, from talking points around research and statistics to those that address the more emotional aspects.
From that, multiple shared themes were then used to inform, focus, and guide generalized conversations and interactions between sides. That allowed the team to hone in on a target audience of individuals who are unsure about whether or not to vaccinate, not those who are staunchly or actively against it. Moreover, it made room for a broader discussion around vaccines as a whole, rather than specific vaccines.
The Healthy Conversations Coach itself simulates, in-real-time, a discussion users might have about a tough topic, similar to a text message. Driven by extensive research, specific personas were identified and then common questions, answers, and concerns related to the tough topic were addressed with conversational sensitivity and medical accuracy, reviewed by board-certified physicians. The Coach was then user-tested to promote an intuitive mobile first experience.
While the Healthy Conversations Coach has a fun “choose your own adventure” feel, all discussion points were strategically accounted for and laser focused to ensure users are always learning and moving forward. Gamifying the Healthy Conversations Coach also provided a novel health experience for users that is both enticing and informative.
At the end of every Healthy Conversations Coach, users have the option to download a PDF of the script they just interacted with as well as any available and relevant doctor discussion guide to bring to their next appointment or share with others.
The Verywell Healthy Conversations Coach is here to help empower people to ask the difficult questions, to answer the even more difficult ones, and to face uncomfortable situations that foster unhealthy life choices. The power to feel and live better rests in open communication and actionable education, and it is the responsibility of all the players in our lives to take an active role in that. That’s how we make change.
From national trade coverage in Mediapost and MM&M to local media pickup on KULR8 and ABC Montana, the healthy conversations campaign was a success. In a time when a once-eradicated disease in the U.S. resurfaced, Verywell set out to break down communication barriers between those unsure about vaccinating and those in support, seeking to promote the safety and well-being of the general population.
Though the topic is quite niche, the extent of the risk posed by those who choose not to vaccinate has dire repercussions, as seen by this year’s multiple outbreaks throughout the country. Verywell’s goal was to foster communication and awareness—and proudly claim, “mission accomplished”.
The initiative was further applauded by other public health advocates and activists, including positive feedback from the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases who said “It’s very neat! I have shared it with our team. We would love to hear what kind of reactions you get as your readers begin to use it. I think that it could really be helpful” and NYC’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene who said, “This is definitely something that is needed. We strive to work on provider/patient communications as part of our provider education portfolio.”
Other publications and organizations also responded positively, including Vaccines Today, Nurses Who Vaccinate, and social handles History of Vaccines, pediatrician Jamie Friedman, and Tamer Hadi, also of the NYC Department of Mental Health and Hygiene.