DEI with Our Audience: A Q&A with Tracy Stickler & Dria Barnes


How does diversity, equity and inclusion come to life behind the scenes at Healthline Media? We sat down with key internal leaders to find out. In this Q&A series, we’re peeling back the curtain to show how we’re walking the talk at every level of our business.

TRACY STICKLER, Chief Content Officer

As Chief Content Officer, Tracy is responsible for setting the strategic vision and leading the editorial strategy and content operations for Healthline, Medical News Today, Psych Central and Greatist.

DRIA BARNES, SVP of Content and Brand Strategy

As SVP of Content and Brand Strategy, Dria leads the editorial teams and brand vision on Healthline, Psych Central, and Greatist. She also oversees Content & Brand Integrity teams as well as Audience Development, including social media and newsletters.

Can you explain the importance of DEI from an audience perspective?

Diversity, equity and inclusion are essential to us as a publisher. Our company’s vision is to create a stronger, healthier world – and as a family of brands that reaches almost 100M people each month in the U.S., we have a responsibility to meet our consumers where they are and address their unique health needs and goals with empathy, support and credible information.

Audiences need to feel seen in order to connect with our content and trust the information our brands provide. Representation is paramount. That’s why we, as a company, invest in deep consumer insights – so we can understand and connect with them, rather than talking at them. 

We also consider the systemic issues that have contributed to the current state of health in different communities. Making inclusive content means asking questions (How do specific health conditions impact marginalized audiences? What might a medical study we’ve cited have overlooked?), and checking for blind spots (Does this food plan we cover exclude certain audiences with recommendations that aren’t culturally competent?).

Cultural competence is the ability to understand and effectively support and engage with people from a diversity of backgrounds and cultures. Included in cultural competence is the willingness to learn about the cultures of others – and openness to and respect for those differences.

These are the kinds of things we have to consider and program for as we hire editors and writers, build our panel of clinicians and experts, and select and cover different topics. The language we use, the context we need to consider, even the images on the page – it all helps us build equity and inclusion into our work.

What efforts and rigor are your teams making to promote diversity and representation in our content?

We are committed to the highest standards of quality and editorial integrity in all our programming. Our Content Integrity team delves into the power of language – in our content, in health systems and in day-to-day life.

For example, we are proactively evaluating and updating our content for conscious language, medical accuracy and cultural competence. We’re also training all our writers and editors in conscious language best practices.

Conscious language is the intentional use of words and terms to create empathetic, inclusive, and non-stigmatizing content, as well as the intentional phrasing and framing of health topics so as not to perpetuate bias that can contribute to health inequities.

Medical accuracy is always a top priority for Healthline Media, and we uphold the medical integrity of our content, products and services while taking an empathetic, non-stigmatizing approach. We know that language matters, and are invested in using language to fulfill the company’s mission to create a stronger, healthier and more equitable world.

Are there any new initiatives or programs we’ve implemented across our brands to drive this work forward?

Our commitment to health equity isn’t new, but we are seeing a deepened focus, or renewed energy with it right now – especially improving racial inequalities in health and healthcare. So far in 2021, we launched Transform: Health Equity, Healthline’s campaign to raise awareness and advocacy for marginalized communities, as well as a company-wide, internal education series led by the Black Women's Health Imperative, a national nonprofit dedicated to improving the health of Black women and girls.

We also launched Psych Central during Mental Health Awareness Month with a clear and specific commitment to destigmatize and support Black mental health. (The team partnered with BEAM and DRK Beauty Healing to bring that forward.)

And, we developed thorough internal guidelines for Medical News Today, which acknowledge and address the fact that structural racism affects healthcare systems and health information worldwide.

How are you making investments or decisions that allow our audiences to see themselves and hear their voices in our content, products, etc.?

As a content organization, we are committed to developing a diverse team of writers and editors across our brands. Our aim is that our network of writers, in particular, will represent the diversity of the general U.S. population. We’re deeply connected to our people and recruiting strategy, and are working to ensure we have the right voices internally to create content that meets the needs of our BILAP (Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian and Pacific Islanders) and other marginalized audiences.

These efforts don’t just impact our external audiences, either. It shapes our whole company culture. The content we produce impacts the companies we partner with, the people who choose to work with us and much, much more. Being intentional about having diverse representation in that content has a ripple effect that impacts every part of the business.

Learn more about our commitment to DEI in other areas:

Click here to explore more about our guiding approach.

About Healthline Media

As the #1 health media property in the US, Healthline Media reaches more than 94MM unique visitors each month (Comscore, August 2021). We provide credible health information with a compassionate approach.