Words by Isabel O’Brien
Young people today have a well-documented, bolstered interest in their own well-being compared with the generations that have preceded them. Deep-fried school dinners and binge drinking fluorescent alcohol shots are no longer key milestones of the coming-of-age experience, rather these are etchings of a past where wellness products smelled of incense and occupied a small corner of the high street chemist.
“Generation X through millennials clearly rank health and wellness as a high priority, as percentages with gym memberships increase annually along with use of connected health devices,” says Graham Jones, Director of Innovation, Novartis.
These generations have trailblazed the new era of wellness: a more proactive and holistic attitude to health, and in turn, wider society has hopped aboard and adopted greater responsibility and autonomy over their personal well-being. According to Anna Alexandrova, author of A Philosophy for the Science of Well-Being: “Well-being is a complex and multidimensional phenomenon. It encompasses a person’s emotional state, their sense of how they are doing relative to their values, and under some definitions it can even encompass their objective quality of life and flourishing.”
Given that each person’s perception of well-being is an individual, values-based judgement, it is obvious why a colossal wellness industry has emerged out of this psychological shift – there is a broad spectrum of consumer demands to be met. Wellness commodities, including apps, superfoods, and even homeopathic medicine like CBD, are populating stores and homes across the planet. But, whilst other industries cash in, how should the pharmaceutical industry respond to society’s new-found prioritisation for their well-being?
“As part of their patient-centricity and digitisation activities, pharma companies are getting more interested in better promoting and supporting wellness,” says Merat Bagha, Former Director of Marketing, Digital Health and Patient Care Business, Merck Group.
Feeding the commodification of wellness will not create lasting opportunities for better well-being overall, rather, the pharma industry must seek to encourage, educate, and create reward cycles for the mindset shift that wellness commodification seeks to serve: people engaging with their own health on a deeper, more diverse level.
Currently, it is smaller firms pioneering strategies of this nature: “Efforts are typically disease-specific and include products and services focussed at providing education, support, engagement and in certain cases, monitoring and tracking,” says Bagha. “Companies such as Omada Health are leading the way in this regard, offering solutions for type II diabetes, hypertension, and behavioural health.”
Omada Health’s digital health programmes are for patients with diseases in which lifestyle is a contributing factor. They use digital, data, and behavioral solutions to help patients proactively alter the course of their health journey. The shift toward wellness has created a demand and fertile habitat for programmes like this unlike anything that has been seen before.
To truly encourage and accelerate this shift, large pharma companies will need to start incorporating programmes of this nature into their strategies, in the form of combined healthcare packages, as well as traditional medications, and work to engage HCPs with innovation in this area: “Given the critical function that the HCPs have at individual patient level, their role in making accessible, frontline, highly personalised medicines and tailored wellness programmes will be important,” says Jones.
Engaging HCPs with such packages should be straightforward: “HCPs are equally excited about promoting wellness amongst their patients. The potential to reduce workload and complications is enormous,” says Bagha. “However, HCPs are busy and inundated with information, and old habits are difficult to change. A broader focus on wellness and prevention requires proper messaging, targeted educational campaigns along with sound clinical evidence.”
Whilst patients today are demonstrating improved motivation in regard to their own health, as with all major changes, there will need to be strident efforts to engage the wider system with this new approach. This is where marketers will need to harness all their resources, creating a dialogue around this innovation and investing in research that corroborates the demand and benefit these fusion healthcare package can deliver. “Medical scientific liaisons and advisory boards formed by key opinion leaders also have the chance to shape this thinking,” says Bagha.
The transition from reactive to pro-active treatments correlates with society's new-found focus on well-being, and the pharma industry must embrace wellness and adapt to steamroll this into improved overall outcomes for patients. The moment to react is now, as quickly as this generation’s priorities have shifted from late night excess to an early bedtime with a cup of herbal tea.
A broader focus on wellness and prevention requires proper messaging, targeted educational campaigns along with sound clinical evidence