NEW YORK, NY – October 29, 2019 – Almost no health topic was off limits at Chronicon, a first of its kind day-long event that brought together today’s most impactful health influencers specializing in chronic conditions for an open forum to address the needs of those living with chronic conditions and their support communities. The event was co-produced by Healthline Media, the top online health media property in the U.S. with 86 million monthly readers, and Nitika Chopra, a healthcare advocate living with psoriasis.
The event attracted more than 200 influencers Monday at Union Park East in New York City from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Invitees were Healthline readers, Healthline’s and Chopra’s community members, and the general public through ticket sales.
The National Health Council estimates that more than 40 percent of the U.S. population struggles with a chronic illness in varying degrees. Chopra, who has lived with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis since age 10, said those with chronic conditions yearn for support and community, which led her to create Chronicon in partnership with Healthline Media. “People with chronic conditions – regardless of their condition, ethnic background, or gender - often feel isolated and without any community,” Chopra said. “Through Chronicon, we’re showing them that they are not alone. We’re changing lives by spreading the power of self-care, creating communities and engendering support for people with chronic conditions.”
At sessions throughout the day, influencers shared their personal stories and provided advice and recommendations on everything from guilt-free self-care, advocating for yourself with doctors, and coping with the emotional ups and downs of a chronic condition. The bold range of topics included managing the challenges of dating and sexual relationships, new tools for families and caretakers living with a chronically ill person, how to have an effective appointment with your doctor, and navigating nutritional requirements while living with a chronic condition. Participants discussed advocacy, creating boundaries to stay healthy, and how to become an influencer with a brand.
“The most important aspect of Chronicon has been to hear from those on the front lines of the vibrant communities of those living with chronic health conditions,” said Healthline Media Senior Vice President of Marketing Tracy Rosecrans. “The next phase is to bring these deeper understandings and learnings to healthcare marketers and pharmaceutical executives to help improve support resources, treatment and health outcomes.”
The challenges of living with a chronic condition that is often completely invisible can be emotionally overwhelming. Multiple Sclerosis Advocate Eliz Martin discussed her own experience with “sick guilt,” the subtle pressure (intended or not) to perpetually appear “sick” and speak only of misery so that others will take their illness seriously. As Martin points out, “For someone with an invisible illness it is a struggle because ‘you look so good,’ which kind of takes away what’s going on under the surface.”
In one of the day’s more lively panel discussions, the influencers dove into the stigma and complications of dating and finding love while living with a chronic condition, preparing a potential new partner for how to eat to foster possibility for a kiss, even how to select the right condoms and engage your partner in effective and appropriate usage. Dr. Jessica Shepherd, OBGYN, noted that physical, emotional and spiritual health is all related. “The worst a date can do is not accept your needs,” says Shepherd. “Communication with positive reinforcements is key. When something is good, be sure to let your partner know about it. And – with or without a chronic disease – I recommend seeking out a sex therapist to help your connect your mind and body health.”
Mental Health Advocate Melanie Santos moderated a panel about how the chronically ill can get the most out of their doctor’s appointments. Santos advocated for “dating around doctors” until you find one with whom you are comfortable. Other ideas ranged from taking charge of your health by trying a food elimination diet to planning out your dialogue with your physician before your appointment**. Dr. Darien Sutton** advised that patients who bring advocates to their doctor’s appointments and procedures have a better chance of getting better evaluations and treatment. Endometriosis Advocate April Christina pointed out the importance of having a strong enough connection with your doctor that you can recognize when they don’t understand and can have the type of ongoing dialog necessary to clarify what you are experiencing. There was strong agreement that second opinions can be important and are not disrespectful.
Influencers discussed the frustration that people from minority communities have in finding doctors who will take the time to get the right diagnosis and treatment. Panelists of Hispanic and African American heritage pointed out that generalizations about known ailments in minority communities may result in a rushed diagnosis and associate symptoms as part of common or known conditions, rather than listening to what the individual patient is experiencing and evaluating specific symptoms as an individual.
Style icon and psoriasis/psoriatic arthritis sufferer Stacy London revealed her own pain and trauma that comes with having a chronic condition. “It took me a long time to talk about my health issues publicly…until it felt like something important to help other people with their issues. When you work on television, you have to show up jolly and happy to do anything to get a shot, but nobody knows what goes on behind that.” London was experiencing all kinds of pain that she didn’t understand. She told influencers and all living with chronic health conditions that confidence comes from yourself. “You are the one who decides what’s fashionable, what’s interesting and what matters. And you have to decide how well you want to take care of yourself. Not everything is going to work for you. Autoimmune is still an amorphous field of health. Not eating gluten is good for people with some types of autoimmune disorders, but eating gluten is not good for lots of people.”
Phillip Picardi, Editor-in-Chief at OUT magazine, who has chronic psoriasis, has used his platform in publishing to showcase disabled models and to change the conversation on HIV advocacy from one of describing people as “suffering” to focusing on surviving and thriving, for example. Picardi explained that boundaries are important to share about your chronic illness from a position of strength. He shared a personal story about people telling him to drink celery juice for a week or become a vegan to make his psoriasis disappear. “People that offer that kind of unsolicited non-medical advice can send us into a shame cloud and may not be received as supportive.” Another on the panel referred to that type of advice as “medical disaster tourists.” They emphasized that those with chronic conditions want to be treated as equals, and suggested surrounding yourself with an inner circle who check in on what you want and need.
An estimated combined global audience of more than seven million is expected to have engaged with Chronicon’s thought-leaders and experts, to find strength beyond their symptoms, and break the cycle of isolation that often accompanies feeling at odds with their bodies.
About Healthline Media
San Francisco-based Healthline Media’s mission is to empower people to be their strongest and healthiest selves by being a trusted ally in their pursuit of health and well-being. The company is one of the world’s fastest growing health information brands with online properties Healthline.com, MedicalNewsToday.com and Greatist.com. Healthline’s sites provide socially inspired and data-driven articles with the highest standards of medical integrity that support the modern health consumer with a whole-person approach to health and wellness. Healthline Media is the top ranked health publisher and number 36 on Comscore’s Top 100 Property rankings. Across all of its properties, Healthline Media publishes each month up to 1,000 scientifically accurate yet reader friendly articles authored by more than 120 writers and reviewed by more than 100 doctors, clinicians, nutritionists, and other experts. The company’s repository contains more than 70,000 articles, each updated with current protocol. Healthline Media is profitable with year-over-year revenue growth of more than 45 percent. More than 200 million people worldwide and 86 million people in the U.S. visit Healthline’s sites each month, according to Google Analytics and Comscore, respectively.