All posts by TogoRun Unleashed Blog

Celebrating International Women’s Day

To celebrate International Women’s Day, we asked TogoRun women in each of our offices to share a few empowering words on who their hero is and why, what International Women’s Day means to them, and how they embody this year’s IWD theme – Be Bold For Change – in their daily lives. Here’s what they said:    

Eboni Wingo, TogoRun New York

My hero is former First Lady Michelle Obama. Over the years, she has been an amazing role model and advocate for a number of issues that I hold near and dear to me, and I can’t forget her impeccable fashion sense; she is the epitome of poise and eloquence!

To me, International Women’s Day means recognizing, celebrating and showing appreciation for the various accomplishments of women throughout the world. The most important thing people can do today to empower women now – and in the future – is to encourage women to pursue their passions, from a young age. If we instill this in girls from an early age, they will never doubt their ability to reach their goals! I champion #BeBoldForChange by constantly pushing myself to stand up for what I believe in.

Diana Haugen, TogoRun Los Angeles

“Be kind to one another” – It’s a simple mantra that Ellen DeGeneres proclaims daily on her TV show, “Ellen.” It’s The Golden Rule in one easy package that we are encouraged to carry with us every day; yet, somedays, we forget that package on our doorstep. But, I find encouragement from Ellen, her words and example. She is a trailblazer in what it means to approach life, work and relationships in a positive way, and she embodies core values that are critical to empowering women: respect, tolerance, generosity, laughter and responsibility.

As a professional and a mom of two young boys, I aspire to #BeBoldForChange by following Ellen’s example and setting my own by prioritizing positivity and respect. I feel it’s important to contribute positive changes every day because over time, they can create a movement that asserts respect for all. We have to remember that people and relationships are everything in business and life.

So, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, a day that calls on us to forge a better working world, I can’t help but think about that package on my doorstep. This day reminds me to open the door to change through positivity and be kind to one another.

Ally Gotsell, TogoRun Boston

I’ve been incredibly lucky to have many positive female role models—SHEroes as I like to call them—to look up to in my life. Female politicians (shout out to Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren), professors (shout out to Professors Mattina and Gallagher), and managers (shout out to Jane, Anu, and TogoRun’s very own Amy Thomas!) have all motivated and influenced me. However, my most important SHEro is my biggest supporter—my mom. She’s a hard-working nurse who has instilled her work ethic in me, encouraging me to follow my dreams and letting nothing, especially my gender, stop me.

To me, International Women’s Day is about celebrating women and advocating for complete and total gender equality. I think the most important thing people can do to empower women is to embrace intersectional feminism—the understanding of how women’s overlapping identities, such as race, class, sexual orientation, ability, ethnicity, and religion, impact the way they experience discrimination and oppression.

I embody #BeBoldforChange by championing for the rights of other women. I’m passionate about reproductive justice—in April I’m leading a team raising money for an organization that helps people in Massachusetts have access to reproductive healthcare. Additionally, on January 21st I stood alongside tens of thousands of other women at the Boston Women’s March because I believe a group of strong and united women have the power to change the world!

Grainne Maguire, TogoRun London

There are many heroes who inspire me, but the most important one for me is my mother. To me, she embodied all the great attributes of heroes – bold, brave and fearless.  Although her life was not without tragedy, she pushed forward regardless, letting her spirit power her resolve. She fought for her education, accomplished many things and inspired those who met her. In her 80s, she left her home of 60 years, moved to a new country and reinvented herself becoming a published poet. For me, International Women’s Day is about harnessing that hero spirit which abides in women – to awaken, enlighten and empower women – building a solidarity of purpose where we help each other build a better future. The key I believe is education, education, education – we can’t achieve what we need to achieve without it.  Let’s work together to unleash our hero spirit and be #boldforchange.

Radhika Puri, TogoRun DC

I have had the honor of having many influential women mold the person I am today. One of these includes my AP Calculus teacher from high school, Becky Lazzeri. In November 2014, Mrs. Lazzeri was diagnosed with a rare, aggressive form of cancer. At that point, she had run 30 marathons. Through radiation and chemo, she went on to run three marathons after her diagnosis and completing treatment. Once asked what this experience meant to her, she expressed that while she is slower, she is not embarrassed. She thinks it is humbling that as a cancer survivor, she is able to chase normal and do the things she loves. She started a support group called Press On dedicated to athletes diagnosed with cancer. She says, “I wish I could have had someone support me as I ran to chemo or as I became so weak that every run was more of a jog/walk/crawl. Someone to tell me that it was ok to be slow, ok to walk, ok to ‘run’ only a couple of days a week.  Someone to tell me to enjoy a few minutes of wind in my hair (oh yeah, I didn’t have hair). Someone to tell me that trying to run would feel like dragging weights while underwater. Someone to tell me that I could make a comeback. I may be slower, but much more thankful for each step.” She also raises money to advance cancer research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Mrs. Lazzeri inspires me because she is able to stay positive in the face of adversity and come out of incredibly difficult personal struggles stronger than ever.

To me, International Women’s Day is a reminder to be thankful of all the women in your life who have made sacrifices so that you can be where you are today. My grandmother did it for my mother. My mom does it for me. And many times, if you have the chance of getting close to your teachers like Mrs. Lazzeri and my relationship, you learn how their untold stories outside of the classroom can shape and inspire you when you face challenges.

I have always stood up for what I believe is right. While this might seem cliché, I think being bold is not about doing something out of the ordinary. Many times, it’s about assessing what in the daily norms of society actually has a positive effect on your and the collective whole’s growth. I think change comes from viewing/absorbing what the world tells you with a grain of salt, and only engaging and taking in what actually grows your character for the better. Finding the passion to make change comes from first recognizing why something is productive or destructive.

The 21st Century Cures Act was recently signed by President Obama and will allocate over $6 billion to health-care initiatives in the next ten years.

By Daniel Witke

The 21st Century Cures Act was recently signed by President Obama and will allocate over $6 billion to health-care initiatives in the next ten years.

$4.8 billion will be distributed to three signature research programs: Vice President Joe Biden’s Cancer Moonshot, the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative and the Precision Medicine Initiative. The proposed legislation would also give states one billion to fight the opioid crisis and deliver an additional $500 million to the FDA. The bill received overwhelming bipartisan support after a 392-26 vote in the House and a 94-5 vote in the Senate.

As we begin 2017, it is important to understand how these provisions will play a role in the ever-changing landscape of health-care.

Winners: Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Companies, Medical Centers and Mental Health Facilities

The $4.8 billion allocated over the next ten years will help the Cancer Moonshot, BRAIN and PMI by providing the funding needed for research. Universities and medical centers will use the funds for research grants towards cancer, neuroscience and genetic medicine. The bill attracted lobbying activity from 60 schools, 36 hospitals and several dozen groups representing physician organizations.

With opioid-related deaths continuing to rise in this country, the one billion in state grants over the next two years will be allocated to facilities and research.

Representative Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), who is also a psychologist, was a driving force behind the bill because of the provisions that will fund mental health-care programs.

“To all the families who brought their stories out of the shadows, that dared to share their sorrows, their hopes, their shattered dreams, today is a day of joy,” said Murphy.

The Cures Act has provisions that will allow drug and device companies to push their products through the FDA faster. The massive lobbying effort from 58 pharmaceutical companies, 24 device companies and 26 biotech companies supported this provision.  According to the Advanced Medical Technology Association, which represents 300 medical device companies, the Cures Act will allow a quicker path for breakthrough medical technologies to help patients with life threatening conditions.

“Passage of this important legislation is a milestone in improving the innovation ecosystem for medical technology and ensuring the availability of new lifesaving, life-enhancing devices and diagnostics for patients,” said Advanced Medical Technology’s CEO, Scott Whitaker.

However, the bill has been the subject of debate. It includes provisions that will greatly impact the FDA, Consumer and Patient Safety Groups, and Public Health.

Losers: The FDA, Consumer and Patient Safety Groups, and Public Health

One notable opponent of the bill was Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass). One of Warren’s biggest criticisms is the faster approval of prescription drugs and medical devices.

“Pushing treatments without scientific evidence that they work is fraud – fraud that can hurt people,” said Warren.

The FDA is currently the fastest regulatory system in the world and can be potentially life-threatening if the approval process is pushed even faster. Rita Redberg, editor of the journal for JAMA Internal Medicine wrote this bill could amount to a dangerous trade-off: “In our rush to find new effective treatments, we should not harm our patients with ineffective toxic ones.”

The legislation also affects consumer and patient safety groups.

Dr. Michael Carome, Director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, said he was especially concerned about the provisions relating to the drug approval process.

“The summary data could hide important information about the safety and effectiveness from the FDA scientist reviewing the data,” Carome said. “I’m disappointed to see it. ’’

Finally, the bill will cut $3.5 billion over the next ten years from the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which was established under the Affordable Care Act. The fund sets aside money for prevention programs to help battle Alzheimer’s disease, hospital acquired infections and chronic illnesses.

With this legislation affecting so many different areas of health-care, it is more vital than ever to monitor these provisions. No matter the time, day or year, TogoRun is beyond ready to tackle the challenges ahead.

 

Sources:

https://www.statnews.com/2016/11/30/21st-century-cures-act-house/

http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/12/02/504139105/winners-and-losers-if-21st-century-cures-bill-becomes-law

https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/politics/2016/11/28/watch-elizabeth-warren-deliver-remarks-century-cures-bill/puYXC43Mm412XMysZxXBfN/story.html

https://www.statnews.com/2016/11/28/elizabeth-warren-21st-century-cures/

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/08/us/politics/cures-act-health-care-congress.html?_r=0

https://www.statnews.com/2016/12/05/21st-century-cures-act-winners-losers/

http://www.vox.com/2016/11/30/13792732/21st-century-cures-act-warren-sanders

Presidential Candidates’ Views on Healthcare

The Social Media Good, Bad & Ugly in Health Care

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Building an online brand has become so integrated into our society that establishing a social media presence has become the norm across generations. In the U.S. alone, the proportion of adults using social media has increased from 8% to 72% since 2005. The virtual domain has shaped traditional world into a new form, and the health care industry is no exception.  Professionals in relevant health care organizations must recognize the ever-increasing importance of social media because the conversations happening across these channels will continue with or without them.

The Good

As with most industries, social media facilitates faster and simpler information sharing. An online communication platform can assist physicians in listening to experts, researching medical developments, consulting colleagues and networking. For instance, Sermo is a “physician-only” social networking community that demonstrates the opportunities social media creates for the health care industry. Physicians representing 68 specialties in all 50 states gather on this site to network, discuss treatment options and to seek peer advice. The program also provides a rating system by which doctors can rank posts on the site based on perceived credibility.

Social media not only enables conversation amongst health care professionals (HCPs), but also between patients and their HCP. In the U.S., eight in 10 Internet users search for health information online, and 74% of these people use social media to do so. Patients now expect to have 24/7 access to critical health information and social media enables that possibility.

Online platforms can empower education on a global scale amid distance and time constraints. Although controversial, there has been an increase of doctors and surgeons providing updates from the operating room on Twitter. Surgeons can use respective hashtags to essentially live stream a surgery to colleagues halfway across the world and even answer questions in real-time.

tweets from the operating room

The information-on-demand era calls on HCPs to provide information consistently and globally, which can most efficiently be done via social media.

The Bad

While social media offers new opportunities for information sharing, it also allows non-experts to share content just as rapidly as health agencies, if not more so. As a result, health information found on social media lacks quality and reliability. Yet, 90% of respondents aged 18 to 24 said they trust medical information shared on social media networks in a PwC Health Research Institute survey. This points to a concerning correlation between medical information online and widely accepted medical myths.

An online presence also enhances potential breaches in patient privacy. The evolution of social media in health care is driven by a growing demand for transparency. As health care industries increase their presence on these networking sites, it escalates the risk of accidentally releasing sensitive data to the public. Employee guidelines regarding the appropriate use of social media can help resolve the issue of patient privacy; however only 31% of health care organizations have specific social media guidelines in writing.

While the downfalls of social media in health care are abundant, many of the risks can be mitigated with preventive strategies.        

The Ugly

One stark example of social media gone wrong in health care is the viral response to Ebola. While it is important to recognize the seriousness of the Ebola crisis, the online reaction to the first diagnosis of a case in the United States illustrates the ability of social media to perpetuate unwarranted fear and misinformation.

Following the first U.S. diagnosis on September 30, 2014, mentions of the virus on Twitter skyrocketed from about 100 per minute to more than 6,000. Meanwhile consistent streams of posts included inaccurate information that Ebola can be spread through the air, water or food. Opinion leaders also joined the spread of inaccurate information, contributing to the downward spiral of Ebola distress on Twitter. Collectively two tweets from Chris Brown and Donald Trump reached nearly 45,000 people, causing additional turmoil.

As a result of the online panic, Iowa the Department of Public Health was forced to issue a statement dispelling social media rumors. Social media has its benefits when it comes to the health industry, but unless its power is harnessed in a precise and efficient manner, we could have dozens of medical scares, like Ebola, without reasonable cause.

Moving Forward

In response to the shift towards a virtually-networked sphere, health care practitioners are obliged to turn to social media to maintain the flow of information.  A survey of more than 4,000 physicians conducted by the social media site QuantiaMD found that more than 65% of physicians use some form of social media for professional reasons. The social media takeover is inevitable and its best for HCPs to harness these opportunities for better health care and do their best to mitigate the threats.

 

About the author

Melanie is an intern at TogoRun and a senior at American University, studying Public Relations with minors in Psychology and Marketing. Melanie is also the newly elected President of AU’s PRSSA. She has dreams of a professional journey where Public Relations and Health Communications meet with an ultimate career goal in Crisis Communication. Originally from Philadelphia, Melanie recently spent six months in Greece, where she obtained her sailing license. In her spare time, she likes to run and try new food trucks in DC.

Millions of Steps & Counting!

PR Team at TogoRun to get more TogoFit™ during Employee Wellbeing Month in June

For the past year, TogoRun, a leading healthcare communications agency, has been creating a healthy workplace—one employee at a time—via TogoFit, its signature, employee wellness initiative tamiflu price. To mark the 8th Annual Employee Wellbeing Month (EWM) in June, TogoRun, a proud EWM supporter, is encouraging team members to participate in a number of wellness activities throughout the month, culminating in the 2nd Annual TogoFit Games.

TogoFit is a voluntary, socially-integrated initiative that challenges employees to get or stay fit by maximizing their daily steps and active minutes, and tracking their progress via FitBit. Each workday begins with an e-letter focused on positive lifestyle habits, including healthy recipes and exercises, in addition to daily tracking of employees’ steps, distance and active minutes. In recognition of EWM, TogoFit will challenge employees to increase their focus on personal health and fitness through participation in TogoRunning Club Tuesdays, Workout Video Wednesdays and healthy potlucks. At the finish line of EWM will be the TogoFit Games, from June 20-24, a week of short physical activity challenges that will test strength and fitness across TogoRun offices.

To mark the start of EWM, TogoRun is sharing the “TogoFit Five”—five health and wellness tips from five TogoRun employees who consistently rank in the TogoFit top tier:

  1. “Walk when possible. Take a stroll around the office or around the block, and think twice before driving somewhere that is within walking distance.”
    • Amy Thomas, Account Supervisor
  2. “Don’t fear the plank. Planks are a static exercise—meaning the body stays in one position—require no equipment, and can be performed just about anywhere. They’re an excellent, low-impact way to strengthen your core.”
    • Sofia Perry, Administrative Assistant
  3. “Enjoy your exercise. Make sure you like the activity you choose so it doesn’t become a chore.”
    • Jessica Greenman, Senior Account Executive
  4. “Wake up and workout. Check it off your list and enjoy the positive benefits all day long.”
    • Kelly Sousa, Account Supervisor
  5. “Walk with purpose everywhere you go and wear your FitBit to mark your progress. But don’t forget to treat yourself. You deserve it!”
    • Gloria M. Janata, JD, President and Senior Partner

“Health and wellness doesn’t just define our award-winning communications work at TogoRun—it also embodies who we are and how we strive to live each day,” said Gloria M. Janata, JD, president and senior partner. “In reality, every month is Employee Wellbeing Month at TogoRun, but EWM give us an excuse to step it up!”

Learn more about health and wellbeing at TogoRun at www.togorun.com/corporate-wellness, and Employee Wellbeing Month at www.employeewellbeingmonth.com.

 

Visit us at:

www.twitter.com/togorun

www.facebook.com/togorun

www.instagram.com/togorun#

www.linkedin.com/company/togorun

HC Policy Power Players Series: National Quality Forum

By: Annie Martello

National Quality Forum

At TogoRun, we pride ourselves in finding and telling the untold stories—stories about important people and organizations who have not received the recognition they deserve.

When it comes to healthcare policy in the U.S., the Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Food and Drug Administration and the White House are household names; however, there are many other groups frequently overlooked despite their influence in building the future of healthcare.

In this edition of HCPolicy Power Players, we focus on profiling the non-profit/non-partisan National Quality Forum (NQF).

Who

The National Quality Forum is a non-profit and non-partisan membership organization whose mission is to drive improvements in healthcare. The NQF was established in 1999 based on recommendations made by the President’s Advisory Commission on Consumer Protection and Quality in the Health Care Industry. These recommendations concluded that an organization was needed to promote and ensure patient protections and healthcare quality through measurement and public reporting. Its current President and CEO is Christine K. Cassel, who previously held the same title at the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) and the ABIM Foundation.

The NQF is comprised of more than 400 member organizations that represent a vast range of healthcare interests. From consumers and physicians, to government and public health agencies, to pharmaceutical and medical device companies, the NQF spans the spectrum of healthcare.

What It Does

The NQF works to achieve its mission by setting and shaping national quality improvement priorities, endorsing and setting national standards, advancing electronic measurement, and promoting outreach and education programs.

Shaping Priorities

Through NQF-convened partnerships, like the National Priorities Partnership (NPP), the NQF helps to set and shape national healthcare improvement priorities and then determines the best course of action to meet them. The NPP is a cooperative of 52 major national organizations with a shared vision to create a healthier population through a safe, effective, equitable and value-driven healthcare system. Through the NPP, the NQF was able to establish a national blueprint for achieving this high-value healthcare system—The National Quality Strategy. The NQS sets clear goals to help the nation focus its efforts and have a coordinated plan of attack.

Setting Standards

The National Quality Forum uses a rigorous and formal process to evaluate and endorse several different kinds of standards—performance measures, best practices, frameworks and reporting guidelines. NQF’s “Consensus Development Process” involves eight steps:

  1. Call for nominations
  2. Call for candidate standards
  3. Candidate consensus standard review
  4. Public and member comment
  5. Member voting
  6. Consensus Standards Approval Committee (CSAC) decision
  7. Board ratification
  8. Appeals

Advancing Electronic Measurement

The National Quality Forum has developed health IT initiatives to support the prevailing move toward electronic measurement. In 2011, the NQF converted 113 of its endorsed quality measures into an electronic format—eMeasures. eMeasures provide greater consistency and standardization in measuring performance results. In 2011, the NQF also released the Measure Authoring Tool, which allows for the development of standardized eMeasures for use across electronic health records (EHRs) and clinical IT systems.

Additionally, the NQF has developed the Quality Data Model (QDM). The QDM is an information model that acts as a guide for the effective automation and standardization of electronic health record use. The QDM makes data entered into EHR systems more easily measurable and identifiable.

Outreach and Education

The NQF provides reportstools, events and information for use by physicians, healthcare communicators, consumers and others in the healthcare industry. Some of its main outreach and educational materials include: a directory of reports, endorsement summaries, endorsed measures, graphics, a Health IT knowledgebase and an action registry.

The Impact

Why Quality Standards Matter

In 1999, the Institute of Medicine estimated in its famous “To Err Is Human” report, that as many as 44,000 to 98,000 people die in U.S. hospitals each year as the result of medical errors. More recent studies report that these numbers are actually much higher than previously believed. According to a 2013 estimate published in the Journal of Patient Safety, more than 400,000 Americans die annually in part because of avoidable medical errors.

These errors also have a serious fiscal impact. One of the most recent studies to measure these expenses found that medical errors cost the country around $19.5 billion annually, most of which is spent on extra care and medication.

Influence

Due to its stringent and involved consensus process, NQF-endorsed measures are considered the “gold standard” for healthcare measurement in the U.S. The federal government and many other private sector organizations use NQF-endorsed measures above all others and nearly all are in use.

Apart from its endorsed standards, one of the initiatives the NQF is best known for is the creation of its report on Serious Reportable Events (SRE) in 2009. Serious Reportable Events are “preventable, serious, and unambiguous adverse events that should never occur.” These events usually end in death or serious harm to a patient due to medical error and are often referred to as “never events,” as they should never happen. The NQF has compiled a list of 28 SREs in six categories— surgical, product or device, patient protection, care management, environment and criminal. By identifying these SREs, the healthcare industry can work to eliminate them.

Today, the NQF continues to push for the reduction and proper handling of medical error. One of its recent initiatives includes advocating for legislation that would require hospitals to adopt written policies that address the management of adverse events.

The Bottom Line

The NQF persists as one of the strongest voices in championing the enforcement of quality in all areas of healthcare. It can be counted on to advocate on behalf of all major legislation and initiatives that focus on improving the healthcare system. Its strong advocacy for policies to promote safe and high-quality healthcare coupled with its leading-edge efforts makes the NQF an organization to know and follow.

Let’s Talk About Cuba

By: Emma Berry

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The word of the day is “Cuba.” With the restoration of Cuban-American relations, Cuba is re-entering the U.S. media stream in no small way. In the past month, America has been excited about the re-establishment of the embassies, enraptured by the U.S.-Cuba showing in the Gold Cup quarterfinals and abuzz with discussion of President Obama’s foreign goals for our neighbors to the South. We talk about what America can do for Cuba, but what are we not talking about? After over half a century of silence, what is still unheard?

Healthcare is a universal necessity that affects quality of life, both mentally and physically. The conversation it sparks bridges cultural gaps and unites even conflicting nations under a common goal.

World Health Organization (WHO) director-general Dr. Margaret Chan called the elimination of the transmission of a virus one of the “greatest public health achievements possible.” Now, Cuba has done just that. The island nation has a history of successful disease interventions: Medicines for diabetic foot ulcers, lung cancer and hepatitis B. It developed a meningococcal vaccine more than 20 years before America did. And, in early July, the WHO announced that Cuba had effectively eliminated mother-to-child HIV transmission, a massive stepping stone towards an HIV-free generation. With 1.2 million Americans infected with the virus and an estimated 12 percent unaware that they are ill, this is a topic the U.S. should be talking about. But we’re not.

As Ebola ravaged nations in West Africa last year, international providers traveled to the region to lend a healing hand. America sent 65 health workers to Liberia. Cuba sent 165. Cuba, whose cultural approach to medicine teaches a sense of responsibility to help people in need, simply asks students of Havana’s Latin American Medical School (ELAM) to work in underserved world communities in exchange for their education.

Cassandra Curbelo, an American ELAM student, said that the school teaches students to “better understand what patients’ lives are like.” As America strives to achieve equal access to healthcare and transition to patient-centered care, this is a topic the U.S. should be talking about. But we’re not.

So why isn’t it a topic of discussion?

Healthcare isn’t sexy. The top social media influencers in the healthcare space are not celebrities or glamorous public figures. They are educational institutions, renowned doctors and top tier news outlets. When social media users discuss Cuba on Twitter, they aren’t talking about HIV or Ebola- they are talking about soccer, travel and Obama.

cuba3

cuba2

Healthcare doesn’t have the “wow” factor that many other high-profile topics have in today’s media landscape. What it does have, however, is need. The world needs healthcare; it needs access, treatment and resources. Healthcare deserves to be talked about so that it can continue to be improved.

America has a population of over 300 million people, a GDP per capita of over $50,000 and spends 17.6 percent of its total GDP on healthcare – more than any other nation. Cuba is home to just 11 million people, only slightly larger than New York City. It has a GDP per capita of about $10,000. For every $20 that the U.S. spends per capita on health, Cuba only spends about $1.

But we have comparable age structures and life expectancies. Birth rates in both countries are significantly lower than the world average. Infant mortality rates are even closer – Cuba has the 33rd lowest rate and the U.S. has the 34th.

To put that into perspective, New Jersey, one of America’s wealthiest and healthiest states, has a comparable population size to Cuba and spends over $1,000 more per capita on healthcare than the U.S. national average. Yet, the health outcomes are surprisingly similar. New Jersey’s life expectancy is only three years longer than Cuba’s and its infant mortality rate, in the lowest 15% of America, is still higher than the Caribbean country’s.

When it comes to public health, Cuba and the United States have a great deal in common despite our socioeconomic differences.

The question now becomes: What can we stand to learn from Cuba and what, in turn, can Cuba learn from us?

America’s public perception of Cuban relations is historically negative, but this new relationship provides both countries with an opportunity to collaborate for the first time since 1961. Collaboration, however, requires an open flow of both communication and information.

Regardless of personal or political beliefs, Cuba’s healthcare system is something we should be talking about because improving the quality, safety and effectiveness of the global healthcare structure is beneficial to all. Maybe we can learn from Cuba’s low-cost public health system and maybe they can learn something from our emerging health tech revolution.

As President Obama strives to foster a sense of friendship with Cuba, it is important to remember that this means an open dialogue between both nations. America needs to continue to discuss Cuba in order to understand what that friendship will mean for our country, exchange ideas on what healthcare can and should be and recognize opportunities to learn. After over half a century of silence, we can’t afford to sacrifice more.

Mayor of the people, master of communications: A lesson in PR from former Boston mayor, Thomas M. Menino

When former Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino left office in 2013, after serving 20 consecutive years as mayor, his approval rating was reportedly over 82 percent. A Boston Magazine article at the time announced the results of the poll with the headline, “Mayor Menino is More Popular Than Kittens,” citing that only 77 percent of Americans had favorable views on kittens. Even more striking than his popularity, a 2009 Globe poll indicated that over 57 percent of Bostonians had, in fact, met the mayor in person. When applied to the actual population of Boston, that’s over 368,000 people.

Last week, at the age of 71, he passed away visit this site right here. Story after story has been told throughout the Boston papers, and beyond, about the lives he impacted. The city mourns his death because he had an apparent authentic desire to help his constituents – no matter their political party or background or ethnicity. Articles depict the many instances where he showed character, heart and humbleness. Although known for a thick Boston accent and tendency to jumble his words, Menino was a true mayor of the people. He was also a master of communications.

Known fondly as “mumbles Menino,” the former mayor was also famous for malapropisms. Once, in a televised interview, he mistakenly referred to Celtics players Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo as “KJ” and “Hondo”—a slipup that spread through the internet like wildfire. His time in office was filled with many similarly funny anecdotes. Bostonians did not laugh at the mayor, but rather with him, because his authenticity shown through in his frequent public appearances and the actions he took to help his city, despite his sometimes blundered speech, spoke clear.

As healthcare communicators, we are constantly tasked with promoting brand messages across a complex digital landscape. We tweet, blog, post videos and monitor channels to interact with consumers, promote our brands and take note of what is being said. These are all important, crucial methods to help us understand how we are perceived and allow us to best reach our audience. We can learn something even more important from Menino’s tenure in office—how to reach individuals, whether that be a patient or doctor, in a meaningful, lasting capacity.

To Bostonians, the mayor was “one of them.” This impression is especially important for a brand to achieve in healthcare as the solutions offered to patients are ones that they must often trust with their lives. Menino showed he cared about his constituents through genuine interactions. Not only did he build programs that transformed Boston and touched communities, but he attended graduations, funerals and store-openings. Despite, after 20 years in office and a celebrity-like status, Menino remained grounded and local. I think, in healthcare public relations, such a feat is not only important, but ultimately, the main objective.

This fall, at PRWeek’s Good Business, Better Business conference, the sentiment of the top industry communicators was clear: corporate social responsibility is entirely necessary and central to building a lasting brand today. Consumers want to support brands that give back to their communities, care about something more than their profit and contribute to making the world a better place (as cliché as it sounds). CSR initiatives increase a brand’s likability and make consumers feel as if they can invite the brand into their communities, into their homes and, as was true in Menino’s case, even into their hearts.

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When Brands Bark: A Genuine Voice Always Resonates

I can’t help it. I love the work that Edelman does around the trust barometer. Yes, I know, they are a competitor, but I respect great work no matter who does it. And Edelman’s brand work is great. Their latest study nicely articulates the evolution of how we should be thinking about brands. Consumers want “meaningful” interactions with brands. This goes beyond having their desires met (i.e., product reliability) and feeding their emotional needs of safety, love, esteem, etc. Consumers want brands focused on societal demands. This “cultural currency” is emerging as a key brand preference.

This is a perfect dovetail with the great work FleishmanHillard is also doing on the Authenticity Index. It released research in 2013 about the behaviors of authentic companies. Consumers identified nine drivers that can be grouped in three essential strands: management behavior, customer benefits and society outcomes. The research showed that for consumers, attributes related to corporate behavior (management behavior and impact on society) matter as much as those associated with customer care.

That is one of the reasons I think TogoRun resonates with clients – we are authentic. We know that success is not a matter of size but of daring and determination. We truly are inspired by the untold story of Togo, the husky who saved an Alaskan town in 1925. Across all our offices, the spirit of Togo is in everything we do and we challenge each other to mimic the courage, craftsmanship, creativity and commitment he demonstrated to accomplish his heroic feat.

We borrow from Togo’s rich cultural currency. Our commitment goes well beyond our drive to provide clients the best agency experience of their careers. We love helping our clients change the world. We dig deep to find their untold stories – about how they are innovating to fight disease, helping patients and improving the quality of life. We are masterful navigators working to connect their direct value to patients with the larger impact on public health, including lowering the cost to the system.

We also deliver breakthrough strategic communications that incite change. Great research, good intentions and being on the right side of an issue is simply not enough to illicit the massive societal change many of our clients can achieve. We get great satisfaction creating campaigns that move the needle on a public health issues like infectious disease, diabetes and cancer.

We do it because we love it. Our success is not measured in the many awards we’ve won but in knowing that our efforts have disrupted the status quo and improved the health and well-being of others. Although, I will say, it does feel great to be recognized by our peers with PR WEEK’S International Agency of the Year and to be a finalist for PR NEWS award for Best Advocacy Campaigns. And did I mention they voted us a Best Place to Work?

I love the TogoRun brand. It inspires me every day. Thank you FH and Edelman for giving me a framework to articulate why. Woof, Woof!

P.S. We are growing by leaps and bounds in all of our offices – NY, DC, LA and London – so if you want to jump on the sled, email us your resume!

 

 

About TogoRun

TogoRun (www.togorun.com) is an award-winning, full-service global health and well-being communications and public affairs agency with offices in New York, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and London. The agency specializes in integrated marketing and communications, branding and positioning, advocacy and government affairs, issues and crisis management, and corporate communications and social responsibility.

Surgeon General Koop – the maverick who never kept his beliefs “cooped” up
No Smoking Here!
No Smoking Here!

To some, he was an icon; to others, he was an activist. Many even considered his views and positions rather outlandish during the 80’s.

The truth is Charles Everett Koop, who died on February 25, 2013, was a talented pediatric surgeon determined to make people’s lives better. This may be nothing new for a physician, but what made Dr. Koop unique was his ability to influence public opinion about an array of social and health issues, such as: smoking, HIV, homosexuality and sex education. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan appointed him to the post of surgeon general and, for the next seven years, Dr. Koop, with his navy blue uniform and trademark bushy white beard, was a man on a mission – to change public attitudes and policies about major health issues. Continue reading