A New Health Care Cultural Challenge

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Good PR pros believe in proactive communications management. Be it media relations, social media, promotions — every type of communication is better with advance planning. Our health can get better with proactive management, too. 

Have you noticed that health issues seem to be abundant lately? Judging by my Facebook feed and some close conversations, it has felt like more unexpected illnesses have popped up in people than in any other point in time I can recall. These are health issues not directly linked to COVID. 

Discovering stress-related surprises

My theory is that months upon months of chronic stress have aggravated underlying conditions people may have had. I’ve seen colleagues I care about get diagnosed with autoimmune diseases, skin diseases, and have heart attacks. Tragically, some unexpected deaths have occurred. I myself was diagnosed with adult-onset asthma in April 2020. (Yes, that’s a thing.)

Just recently my dentist said I needed a night guard for my teeth. Night guards are a type of mouth guard you wear overnight to protect your teeth against damage that can occur if you grind or clench your teeth while you sleep. This was a new pandemic issue for me. I didn’t realize I had a problem with it until my dentist noticed it during a routine cleaning. 

“I don’t grind my teeth!” I said. 

“Apparently you do,” he responded.

“Well, I clench them — maybe,” I admitted. “Sometimes when I’m dreaming my mind is spinning trying to solve problems. When I wake up my jaw is sore.”

“Yup, that’s it,” he nodded. “I’ve seen a huge rise in clenching and grinding since the pandemic began. We’re issuing many more night guards than ever before.”

Well, gee. Where does that leave us PR pros? Have you checked your teeth lately? How’s your health been? Our work can be stressful, and for two years planning ahead has been a shaky experience. I urge you to get your wellness checks and support a workplace that allows time for your employees to get theirs as well. 

Reprioritizing wellness

If you manage health care PR, I salute you. You’ve had a lot to manage for a long time now. Plus, you may be coping with less staff, and communicating with an increasingly unwell population. 

Fear of catching COVID caused some people to stop their regular wellness visits to dentists, primary care physicians, gynecologists, and more. Patients may now be coming to grips with new ailments and conditions. Or they may be more anxious about costs or care in our current climate. Historical barriers to health care such as lack of insurance, out-of-pocket costs, language differences, immigration status, and cultural beliefs or practices still need to be navigated. 

Our job may be two-fold to combat new cultural behaviors around health that have arisen in recent years.

1. Reinspire our communities to return to proactive management of their health after we address any current issues. 

2. Remind our communities how wellness practices are the smartest way to maintain our health. 

Let’s take care of ourselves, too. It may be time to get checkups, curb any pandemic splurges, and assess our stress levels as hardworking PR practitioners. There’s a reason antacids were hard to find during the height of the pandemic! Hopefully, all pandemic-related heartburn or teeth issues will be a distant memory in the years to come. 

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