A spoonful of sugar?


We can all agree, 2016 was a year dominated by bad news. As the UK population has returned to work this month, there was a sense that we were tentatively waiting to see if 2017 would fare any better. With the familiar spectacle of the New Year, New Me phenomenon and reports of the NHS in crisis ongoing, it seems fair to say that January hasn’t delivered anything too unexpected.

But, if last year taught us anything, it was to expect the unexpected, both good and very very bad. Nonetheless, alongside the unprecedented trials and tribulations of the past 12 months, the world of healthcare saw some positive developments. From breakthroughs in heart disease and Ebola to MS and HIV, these announcements offered a small glimmer of hope in what most commentators have confirmed was a pretty bleak year

So, from a year of headline stealing politics, we’ve rounded up some of our favourite stand-out health stories, in the hopes we can glean some insight and inspiration on how to approach the uncertain year ahead.

Telling the personal story behind health-tech innovation

In January there were new signs of hope for dementia care in the UK. Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, NHS Chief Executive Simon Stevens announced the adoption of ‘Test Beds’ a trial programme, embracing the latest technological innovations in connected wearables and data analysis.

The real-world impact of this technology was quickly translated by Alzheimer’s Research UKwho endorsed the move and brought to life the fact that technologies such as these will allow people with dementia to live for longer in their own homes and better manage their condition. The charity shifted the conversation to focus on the potential benefit to people affected, translating the technical into something tangible and relevant for the 1 in 6 elderly people in the UK who have dementia, and their families.

The application of new technologies in health has been an increasingly popular theme over the past couple of years. Stories which can present real-world applications for these technologies have the best potential to capture the imagination and gain greater exposure.

Understanding consumer behaviour on social media

The fast-paced world of social media, trends tend not to dwell on past fads, but emerging from the ghostly corner of the internet’s yesteryear was some positive news generated by the ALS Ice Bucket challenge that stormed across Facebook and Twitter in 2014.

As reported in July 2016, donations from the campaign have since gone on to fund research which has identified a common gene that contributes to the disease, presenting scientists with another potential target for developing therapies. Thus proving that slacktivism, when done correctly, can successfully inspire and engage the large, interconnected audiences on social media. The advent of mobile technologies has meant that when social media trends go viral they can actually generate meaningful, real-world change that advances our understanding of devastating conditions and garner support for change.

Although 2016 was the year that announced the end of Vine, mobile tech users continue to record, share and watch short video media in high volumes, as seen with the popularity of this years’ mannequin challenge. Brands that understand these behaviours can tap into those habits and create content that users will want to actively promote and share.

Authenticity in a post-truth world

Fans of dairy products had cause for celebration in May when cheese, yogurt and full fat milk were put back on the menu, following the release of a report by the National Obesity Forum and the Public Health Collaboration. The report turned the tide on recent years of fat-shaming and advocated a high-fat diet in order to stay healthy.

These claims were immediately challenged as presenting dangerous and irresponsible dietary advice and an incoherent and noisy narrative rumbled on throughout the year, with experts lending their names to various interpretations of what the new ideal should be.

Across the healthcare sector, from consumer brands to pharma companies, the solution is more than ever for brands to engage in areas where they have a right to comment. Clear messaging can support consumers to make positive decisions and by creating authentic, quality communications, in terms of both channel selection and content, they can rise above the noise and keep the conversation moving forward.