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Where there’s women’s health, there’s wealth

There’s huge economic advantage in closing the women’s health gap, and yet still this gap is formidable and persistent, says WPP’s Wendy Lund

It’s a $1tr per year opportunity, according to the World Economic Forum and the McKinsey Health Institute. They say that investments that address the women’s health gap could add years to women’s lives and potentially boost the global economy by $1tr annually. What’s not to love?

The idea is that by narrowing the women’s health gap, 3.9bn women would live healthier, better lives. This would enable $1tr to be pumped into the global economy because there would be fewer early deaths, fewer health conditions and fewer barriers to productivity. 

But all this relies on women experiencing better health, less disability and being able to boost economic activity.

Marketing leaders have a role to play 

Women’s health has been important for us at WPP too. In fact, we have conducted our own research – through WPP’s Grey and Mindshare, and in partnership with SeeHer – that tackles the women’s health issue, but from the marketing perspective.

In Health on Her Terms, we concluded that women’s health communications must step up if women’s health outcomes are to improve. And the only way for health communications to achieve this goal is for marketers to stop ignoring the complex and multi-faceted way in which women (and those who identify as women) see themselves. 

The study showed that, worryingly, 47% of women believe that media and advertising shy away from talking about women’s health issues. It said that communications on women’s health can – and should – better represent women’s needs right across weight, reproductive care and mental health.

Wouldn’t it be great if marketing leaders were to commit to enabling better health outcomes for women – however women define themselves. After all, marketing leaders have the power to influence culture, behaviour and even wellbeing. If they were to commit to more representative and complex messaging, images and story-telling – and thereby achieve this higher ethical standard – they would simultaneously contribute to improved physical, reproductive and mental health outcomes for women. 

And this is good for brands and good for business too. Our research showed that women support brands they believe to be representative of them, as they really are, and that also represent their healthcare needs. Women want brands to be vulnerable, brave and real; not stuck in old ways of thinking about womanhood as dynamic, exceptional and care oriented.

In our study, women told us they’re likely to be loyal to brands who tackle entrenched and pervasive health taboos in media (not embed them further) – and speak to these taboos in a dignified way. 

Well women; boosted economy

If we market well, hone messages responsibly and understand who the women in our audiences truly are, there is every opportunity to make a difference to women’s lives through communications, marketing and advertising. This can only lead to improved economic activity.

But is there enough data to go on? A study conducted by WPP’s CMI Media Group showed just how little female-specific research is being conducted into women’s health; and social listening is revealing the very high numbers of women who believe they remain unrepresented in advertising. 

Social listening has also revealed that women are trying to educate other women, especially around pregnancy loss, miscarriage, menopause, chronic pain and mental health. Women are sharing this information online because of the lack of information elsewhere.

Brands need to be in these spaces, and they need to support these communities of women who are helping each other through knowledge-sharing and support. This is where the action is, and this is where brands can shine and have influence. 

Women’s health is about wealth too

We believe that where there’s health, there’s wealth, but – however vital – it takes more than the marketing and advertising industry to achieve positive women’s health and the pursuant positive economic outcomes. There needs to be action on a global scale. 

From policy to research to local action, women’s health must be higher up the agenda. Only then –underpinned by the Sustainable Development Goals – will we be able to achieve a healthier and more prosperous world for everyone. 

 

Wendy Lund

WPP

published on

06 March 2024

Category

Communications Commerce

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