Marketing Healthcare To Women In An Evolving Socio-Economic Climate
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Prioritising women’s education and health needs not only makes marketing sense, but helps to ensure that the advantages of this access has a wider reach in terms of benefiting their families, wider communities, and can ultimately contribute to socio-economic development.

An IMF article ‘Invest in women and prosper’ written by David E. Bloom, Michael Kuhn, and Klaus Prettner espouses the view that women can be powerful instruments of social change and that when women are healthy, educated, and empowered, they are more likely to take leadership roles in the community.

Women play a pivotal role within the SA economy and an invaluable role in the healthcare sector. As healthcare consumers, they are often the main decision-makers and also have considerable medical needs of their own. In terms of their health and wellbeing needs and that of their families, most of these ordinary women, many of whom are breadwinners, are not benefitting from the focus that they require and deserve.

The direct and indirect influences of the South Africa female healthcare consumer has never really been quantified in our country, however, a number of international studies suggest that women often take an active interest not only in their own health but also in that of their partners, children and extended families.

In the United States, data gathered by Oliver Wyman’s Consumer Survey of US Healthcare has demonstrated that the 125 million adult women throughout America are consistently more engaged in healthcare decisions than men.

The situation is no doubt similar in our own country where women are often responsible for the healthcare of dependent children as well as elderly family members. Despite this, the South African female healthcare consumer is still largely underrepresented. However, the role and status of women in South Africa are steadily changing and healthcare funders and intermediaries who market healthcare services would be disregarding this at the cost of their business.

As primary caregivers are mostly female, they command the purse strings when it comes to healthcare spend even where they may not necessarily be the primary breadwinner. For instance, as much as 70% of family prescriptions are picked up at the pharmacy counter by women, and women remain more likely than men to make healthcare decisions for someone other than themselves.

For years, medical schemes have overlooked the fact that women are in a pivotal position within the family and largely responsible for family healthcare. As a result, they have done very little to appeal to women specifically to keep them informed about medical scheme and healthcare-related matters, not only when it comes to their families, but in particular where it concerns women beneficiaries.

While women continue to fulfil this central role within the family environment, we are increasingly seeing the advent of the independent, generally single woman, professional and career-oriented, for whom family and children are now no longer the be-all and end-all of existence.
These women postpone marriage and family until much later in their life. They move within a far more stressful and demanding environment than their mothers or even elder sisters knew. They are subject to a whole new range of illnesses which have previously not been closely associated with women.

The health requirements of women have evolved. Many have little interest in maternity benefits and have more nuanced healthcare cover needs. Female health needs have evolved alongside women’s role in society, and our approach to marketing healthcare cover to female healthcare consumers must keep pace or lose all relevance.

Women healthcare consumers do not necessarily respond to gender-specific marketing, although it is crucial to demonstrate awareness of women’s diverse health needs and identities while speaking to the human being first.

When it comes to healthcare cover and accessing healthcare services it is important to remember that women are savvy consumers who may value different things to men. It is important to keep this firmly in mind when marketing healthcare to women healthcare consumers.

Women have fairly specific health concerns and requirements that need to be met when selecting a medical scheme. Some of these requirements could typically include:

• Exceptional preventative healthcare benefits including access to regular screening
• Contraception cover
• Good maternity benefits
• Vaccinations for conditions such as cervical cancer
• Excellent oncology benefits
• Dietary advice and exercise prescriptions
• School readiness and hearing tests for pre-school children

To quote the American Marketing Association (AMA) “everyone wants to stay well; men and women just live in different bodies”. Presenting healthcare value for women in a way that speaks to individual identity and is relevant to their lifestyle is far more complex.