FAQ: What Is Healthy Conversations?

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We have all struggled to talk about difficult topics with people in our lives. Healthy Conversations is a new and innovative approach to help people find their best words when it comes to talking about sensitive health issues.

This experience not only equips users with information and conversation prompts, but also empowers them to embrace difficult health conversations rather than shy away from them.

The more prepared and educated people are for having difficult discussions about health and disease, the more fluid and productive the conversation and the better the overall outcome.

Women having serious conversation
10'000 Hours / Getty Images 

Why Is This Tool So Important?

Talking about health and disease can be quite sensitive and scary, even to the point where people try to ignore it. With Healthy Conversations, we are reframing the way people approach difficult topics on health. No longer should people avoid such discussions.

We give you the tools to facilitate an informed, actionable, and insightful conversation. It’s OK to talk about health and we’ll show you how.

There has always been a certain stigma around talking about health issues. People would rather avoid it altogether or secretly google their concerns in the privacy of their own homes. People are even too insecure to bring up their issues with their doctor, if they even make it to the examination room.

This evasion is bad behavior 101. People need to feel empowered to ask and answer the tough questions they have about their health. The power to feel and live better rests in open communication and actionable education. And it is the responsibility of all the players in our lives to take an active role.

Who Architected the Tool?

Healthy Conversations was the brainchild of Verywell’s editorial team. It was written by Brett Spiegel, who, on top of significant professional experience in digital health, holds a masters degree in public health. He completed his thesis on the benefits of health simulations to promote distance learning.

All dialogue was reviewed for conversational sensitivity by Dr. Steven Gans, a board-certified psychiatrist. Dr. Gans serves as assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and as attending psychiatrist at McLean Hospital. Read his full bio.

Additionally, all dialogue was reviewed for medical accuracy by Dr. Richard Fogoros, Verywell’s senior medical advisor. Dr. Fogoros is a retired board-certified physician who has held many leadership roles, both professionally and academically, and is quite the accomplished author.

What Research Was Done to Inform the Tool?

The initial goals of this project focused on understanding the pain points of each side of the vaccination argument and exploring how best and worst to engage with them.

We reviewed numerous articles and videos that explored the intricacies of the overall vaccine debate, from talking points around research and statistics to those that addressed the more emotional aspects. From that, we were able to glean multiple shared themes that were then used to inform, focus, and guide generalized conversations and interactions between sides.

This also allowed us to hone in on our target audiences, which landed on individuals who are unsure about whether or not to vaccinate, not those who are staunchly or actively against it. Moreover, it allowed us to make the choice to tackle the discussion around vaccines as a whole, rather than concentrate on specific ones.

How Does the Tool Actually Work?

The tool simulates an “in real time” discussion you might have about a tough topic, similar to that of a text message. With lots of research, specific personas are identified and then common questions, answers, and concerns related to the tough topic are addressed with conversational sensitivity and medical accuracy.

The tool has a “choose your own adventure” feel, but all discussion points have been strategically accounted for and laser focused to ensure users are always learning and moving forward.

Why Start With Vaccines and What's Next?

With the recent resurfacing of measles across the U.S., a disease that had long been eradicated, we saw an opportunity to promote education to communities who may not fully understand the importance and necessity—as well as history—of vaccines.

And since the vaccine debate has long been a contentious one, we knew we could provide a realistic, relevant, and much-needed resource in which those looking for help and guidance could really engage.

This Healthy Conversation experience addresses many of the universal issues surrounding vaccines and is a starting off point to encourage discussion, guide dialogue, and ultimately lead people to their doctor.

Based on our own proprietary survey, Verywell found that 1 in 5 Americans disagree with friends, family, or loved ones about vaccines. And of those who are disagreeing, over 40% seek out tools or advice for how to talk about vaccines, and 1 in 3 say that communication techniques would be helpful.

Going forward, we will continue to address topics that are either controversial in nature or are historically known to be difficult points of approach for people.

Are More Resources Available?

At the end of every Healthy Conversation experience, users will have the option to download a PDF of the script they just interacted with as well as any available and relevant doctor discussion guide to bring with them to their next appointment.