Introducing the 2022 Social Health Awards Winners! 

Published August 25th, 2022

The Social Health Awards is the only awards program that truly recognizes health leaders for their hard work and dedication to drive meaningful connections and conversations through social healththe dynamic, real-time action people take to find meaningful connections and share information that impacts the health journey.

Keep scrolling to meet the outstanding 2022 award winners, who represent the wide range of patient leaders Health Union can connect you with through our extensive Social Health Network.

Advocacy Trailblazer: Melissa Talwar

Melissa’s chronic pain journey began at the age of 14, and after a long 20 year decline and a laundry list of diagnoses, she took her health into her own hands. Through biohacking, she has reclaimed wellness again and is focusing her energy on building the nonprofit organization, Support Fibromyalgia Network, and sharing group health coaching with the chronic illness communities. #SupportFibro believes in collaboration. It is dedicated to bringing the fibromyalgia community together through patient and medical education, advocacy training, health coaching, and support for fibromyalgia research.
Melissa is a Board Certified Functional Medicine Health Coach, Certified Wahls Protocol® Health Professional, a ReCODE 2.0 coach (Bredesen Protocol), and has a Master’s in Neuroscience.

Best Team: Fibromyalgia Care Society of America

Mildred Velez founded the FCSA in 2015 after noticing a gap in existing nonprofit activity around the condition, which often focused on awareness and research projects. Diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2007, she aimed to provide services to each person in need, addressing their immediate situations while researchers labor to find better treatments or to find a cure. The FCSA’s Center of Excellence program accomplishes this aim. It serves small cohorts of individuals with fibromyalgia, offering support groups and workshops on pain management, mental health, and dietary strategies to reduce symptoms.
As an organization, the FCSA strives to impact the community by providing programming and resources that are innovative, impactful, and consistent.

Caregiving Champion: Elle Cole

Elle is a mom of twin daughters, one of whom is living with both Sickle Cell Disease and Type 1 Diabetes. Elle serves as a parent health advocate for both illnesses and recently authored “A Sickle Cell Coloring Book for Kids”, an A to Z guide for growing up with Sickle Cell Disease. In 2019, after homeschooling for several years, Elle started the Cleverly Changing podcast with a friend that offers homeschool support to moms, dads, and their children. During school learning transitions, Elle shares practical information for families and children who are not able to attend in-person school on how to homeschool or work while children are learning remotely.
Each day, thousands of people follow Elle’s family’s journey on, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube (CleverlyChanging).

Community Cultivator: Natalie Hayden

Natalie (Sparacio) Hayden, 38, is a former TV news anchor living in St. Louis. Her mission in life is to be an advocate for those battling inflammatory bowel disease and to show that a chronic illness doesn’t have to dull your sparkle. Natalie was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in July 2005, two months after graduating from college. After several hospitalizations, countless medications, and flare ups, she underwent her first surgery in August 2015.
Natalie’s blog Lights, Camera, Crohn’s covers everything from overcoming struggles to celebrating small victories throughout all parts of the patient journey from diagnosis and beyond. Natalie enjoys sharing stories about pregnancy and motherhood in hopes of comforting and empowering others.

Creative Contributor: Erica Carrasco

Erica Carrasco, aka Achy Smile, is a migraine advocate from Midland, Texas, now living in the Dallas area. She and her husband, Stephen, guide their two young adult children, Marissa and Noah, through a life with chronic pain and neurological symptoms. With a candid and open dialogue, Erica is shining a light on a life with hemiplegic migraine with her husband as they tell their story. Together they discuss what their family life is like and how important advocacy is to the migraine community. Achy Smile is a Partner of the American Migraine Foundation and the Association of Migraine Disorders, is the Director of Marketing for Chronic Migraine Awareness, Inc., and makes migraine awareness t-shirts and gifts for those with neurological disorders at Achy Smile Shop.

Healthcare Collaborator: Ella Balasa

Ella was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at 18 months old. Despite having 25% lung function, Ella has never let it be her excuse. She is a writer, patient advocate, and scientist who graduated with a degree in biology and has worked in an environmental microbiology lab.
Over the past few years, Ella has become increasingly involved in the CF community. She has found opportunities to serve on research committees and organize a research-focused CF virtual conference. Through her writing, she has been able to provide a scientific voice and encourage empowerment to the CF community, along with sharing the hardships and triumphs that come along with a chronic illness.

Lifetime Achievement: Kristal Kent

As an army veteran, Kristal engages in legislative and healthcare advocacy to help the fibromyalgia/veteran communities better understand their illness, educate individuals on Patient Healthcare Rights, help individuals apply for disability benefits, review best practices to advocate for their healthcare needs, and promote fibromyalgia support and awareness on social media.
Kristal utilizes social media to provide her communities with up to date information and research, connect individuals living with fibromyalgia/chronic pain throughout the world, and helps build their support networks. She is also the founder of The Fibromyalgia Pain Chronicles and of Veteran Voices For Fibromyalgia.

Revolutionary Researcher: Aaron Blocker

Aaron Blocker lives with Crohn’s Disease and an ultra-rare genetic metabolic bone disease called Hypophosphatasia. Over the last 10 years, Aaron has been heavily involved in patient advocacy related to Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), building an online community of more than 30,000 patients and caregivers who have been affected in some way by IBD. His goal has always been to make sure the patient voice is heard in any and all decisions that affect patients.
Aaron likes to use his background in scientific research to break down those hard-to-understand topics related to the disease so that patients can understand the most recent research and breakthroughs. After being diagnosed with his ultra-rare case of Hypophosphatasia in 2017, his advocacy shifted to include the rare disease community.

Rookie of the Year: Jill King

Jill began experiencing chronic pain the month she graduated high school and become blind at 20 years old. Through her challenges, she has been able to find the disability community and find ways to thrive. She educates and advocates on her own social media and writes about her experiences with disability and chronic illness online.
Currently studying psychology at Georgia Southern University, Jill is also the President of the the Students with Disabilities Advocacy Group. The group has advocated for accessibility on campus and within the surrounding rural area and educates people on various conditions and sections of disability, including blindness and chronic pain.

Social Media Master: The Invisible Hypothyroidism

Rachel Hill AKA The Invisible Hypothyroidism is a highly ranked and award-winning thyroid patient advocate, writer, blogger, speaker and author. Appearing on podcasts, in interviews, and writing for many well-known websites, she has worked with The National Academy of Hypothyroidism, The BBC, The Mighty, Yahoo, and MSN, to name just a few. She began her thyroid advocacy journey in 2015 following the diagnosis of autoimmune thyroid disease after many years of frustration and missed opportunities.
Rachel is well-recognized as a valuable contributor to the thyroid community, having published two books: “Be Your Own Thyroid Advocate” and “You, Me and Hypothyroidism.”

Congratulations to all of the 2022 winners!

Thank You to Our Industry Judges

Last but not least, thank you to our amazing healthcare industry judges for sharing your time and expertise to evaluate the inspiring contributions of our patient leaders and role models. Your support and dedication in recognizing and embracing patient centricity and voice of the patient has a meaningful impact on millions of people living with chronic and complex conditions. From the entire team at Health Union, we appreciate you and thank you for your commitment!

The winners will be honored in person at the Fierce Pharma Marketing Awards during Digital Pharma East in October 2022.