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May 07, 2024
Dan Russell
Why are people more concerned with treatment than prevention in global healthcare?
For The Drum’s health & pharma focus, Dan Russell of agency Revolt shares findings from recent research into what people really care about – and examples of brands doing their bit.
What do people care about when it comes to healthcare?
According to my agency Revolt’s annual survey of the 50 most important issues for our populations, people around the world are significantly focused on treatment, rather than prevention. ‘Access to healthcare’ was the highest-ranked health issue globally. Notably, coming in fifth place, it is far more pressing on people’s minds than the consequences of ill health, such as ‘obesity, access to healthy food and exercise.’

This isn’t a surprise. People are feeling the strain of the cost-of-living crisis, wars, political unrest, and the direct consequences of climate change. So it’s perhaps understandable that they are increasingly concerned that the healthcare they rely on might become inaccessible. But this presents a fundamental shift in what it means to market healthcare and the greatest opportunity for the sector in the decade ahead. It also presents huge opportunities to play a significant role for brands that are active in, and support, healthcare.
Causes that count
Revolt’s Causes That Count 2024 report surveyed 5,000 people across five global markets – the UK, US, India, China, and Brazil – to find out what issues matter most to them. With public health, access to healthcare services, and food and nutrition being some of the most important issues for people around the world, we launched Causes That Count, Health: a deep dive into the key issues in physical and mental health.

Access to healthcare was the highest-ranked health issue across all markets, scoring in the top ten of all issues across the US, UK, Brazil, India, and China. Many of the causes and consequences of ill health, however, ranked significantly lower: obesity, access to healthy food and exercise (29th), addiction to drugs, alcohol, and gambling (34th), and the negative impacts of technology (43rd). This suggests that people’s attention is orientated toward treatment rather than prevention of ill health and the maintenance of wellbeing.

Concern for global public health registered one of the biggest drops in this year’s findings, falling eight places from last year to 17th position. This shift away from a focus on prevention is concerning, but perhaps understandable given the easing of the Covid-19 pandemic. There’s a clear opportunity here for brands to step in and work to shift public attention towards prevention, to help stop it fading from awareness.
Brands tackling health
A big area of focus in prevention is women’s health, covering important issues such as closing the gender health gap and contraception. Brands looking to get involved need to understand local situations when tackling global issues. Bug spray brand Raid responded to the issue of women in Rwanda having poor access to health by creating a program to help them train as care workers in the treatment of malaria.

Meanwhile, Mastercard’s Where to Settle program gained plaudits for helping refugees from Ukraine to find housing. More brands now have the opportunity to get involved and make a real difference.

There are many causes to support. Tackling obesity is another key area where greater preventative measures are needed. The World Obesity Federation estimates that more than half of the world will be overweight or obese by 2035. But brands can drive leadership in tech initiatives that support fitness and healthy lifestyles. SkipTheDishes in Canada is one brand tackling poor access to healthy food head-on with The Inflation Cookbook app, which tracks the prices of over 400 ingredients across 100 stores to predict price drops each week.

Education around nutrition can help people to make the most of their limited resources, and to prioritize whole foods over processed ones. Food brands have a particular opportunity to provide affordable, sustainable, and tasty, nutritional support in the form of product innovations and partnerships.

Mental health issues dropped two places in our survey to 13th, but this is a critical area where brands can step up to help with preventative solutions. We now face a global mental health crisis affecting around 1 billion people and responsible for 14.3% of deaths worldwideOne in four older adults in the US is experiencing a mental health condition such as depression or anxiety.

Several brands have risen to the challenge. Xbox’s Beyond Generations helps elderly communities forge new relationships through gaming and shows there’s value in finding new audiences to serve.
Meanwhile, the cost-of-living crisis is itself a major stress contributor to mental health issues. Cashapp partnered with Kendrick Lamar to help people get on top of their finances showing that brands can forge new relationships with consumers by offering shrewd financial advice.

The public’s focus on treatment rather than prevention presents a shift in what it means to market healthcare. This is arguably the greatest opportunity for the healthcare sector in the decade ahead. Brands have an opportunity to use their influence to explore new ways of improving healthcare access and to go beyond ‘sick care,’ eg treating people when they are unwell. They can find ways to support consumers in pursuit of good physical, mental, and social well-being, and make these options attractive and affordable in a way that drives growth for them and delivers a positive impact for all.

For more analysis of the health and medicine landscapes, head over to our health and pharma in focus hub.
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