Beneath the Surface of Chronic Conditions:
Using Data to See the Big Picture

Olivier Chateau

Olivier Chateau CEO and co-founder

By Olivier Chateau
CEO and co-founder, Health Union
October 22, 2018

As Health Union has evolved from launching our first community, Migraine.com in 2010, to 19 online health communities and counting today, one thing has remained the same: bigger has to mean better.

Serving the needs of people impacted by chronic health conditions and reaching more than 10,000,000 people each month yields a unique opportunity not only to understand the challenges associated with a specific chronic condition but also to gain a clear understanding of the bigger picture surrounding the full scale of a person’s challenges with data. In many cases, this includes experience with co-morbid conditions–particulary with chronic illness and mental health.

The quality and scale of relationships created on each of these platforms allow us to look across the spectrum and identify optimal ways to meet people where they are. Recognizing challenges with the primary condition, while simultaneously providing information, connection and validation for other important issues is critical to addressing the needs of the whole person.

Analyses of engagement and conversations on each of Health Union’s condition-specific online communities, combined with responses obtained from corresponding annual In America surveys, shows that quite often, people are dealing with multiple health concerns. For example:

  • Three-quarters of people living with psoriatic arthritis are also diagnosed with plaque psoriasis.
  • More than half of people diagnosed with migraine are also living with allergies.
  • 36% of lung cancer patients live with COPD as well—and 28% have also been diagnosed with another type of cancer.

Additionally, Facebook comments, advocate articles, and In America survey data, illustrate that there are many people who manage varying degrees of challenges with mental and emotional health.

To use data to better understand the impact and relationship of chronic illness and mental health, and to be sure the right resources are provided, Health Union conducted a cross-platform, primary research survey, Mental Health In America 2017. The study revealed:

  • Nearly 90% of people living with a chronic physical health condition felt it had a negative impact on their emotional or mental health.
  • 66% of people living with or caring for someone with a chronic health condition had been formally diagnosed with a mental health condition.
  • A person living with a chronic condition commonly experiences more than 12 mental health symptoms (on average).

As a result of the study, Health Union created a cross-platform initiative that prioritizes mental health content on each of our chronic condition platforms. These content centers, embedded within each community, exist as a valuable resource that raises awareness and offers support for challenges that may accompany the physical symptoms of chronic disease. This perspective also offers pharma partners opportunities to look beyond the surface of any particular condition and get a broader perspective on the daily challenges of living with a chronic illness.