We’re fascinated with the emerging field of relational health here at The 3rd Eye—and the more we look into it, the more we realize that relational health is vital to effective communication in the health and wellness industry.
While it may be a relatively new concept in healthcare and marketing, the practice itself is certainly nothing new. And we happen to be quite seasoned with the skillset tied to relational health.
Effective relational health enables us to gather a deeper understanding of the community we serve—which is important in marketing as a whole, but especially in the health and wellness industry.
But, what exactly is relational health? Why is everybody talking about it? And how can it help us achieve cultural competence in healthcare marketing?
Glad you asked.
What is Relational Health?
Relational Health or Wellbeing is the ability to develop and maintain meaningful relationships, build connections, and deepen close bonds.
It focuses on establishing those relationships not only with other individuals, but with groups and communities. A relational health approach to healthcare recognizes how social and cultural systems interact with one another—and which health conditions are created as a result.
Positive relational health results in “having a network,” feeling “grounded in supported relationships,” and “feelings of satisfaction and security.”
It’s a learned skill, an ability that is fostered daily and can greatly impact not just the individual—but the community as a whole.
Relational health helps us zoom out and look at the bigger picture. Not just how we feel inside, but how we interact with others—and how that affects not only how we feel, but how the community feels overall. It’s about listening and practicing empathy, while still showing vulnerability and honesty.
Harvard’s Center for Wellness and Health Promotion lists the potential benefits of relational wellbeing:
Feelings of inclusion and belonging
Support during times of need
Personal growth & confidence – becoming more comfortable with who you are
Increased communication skills
Conflict managementSource: wellness.huhs.harvard.edu
As marketers, we need to remember that relational health is about relationships. It’s about relationships individuals have with their communities. It’s about relationships communities have with one another. And it’s about the relationship brands build with communities with which they want to interact.
Relational health vs Mental health
Though relational health has an impact on our mental health, the two aren’t one in the same. Akin to social health, relational health focuses on how we engage with our community.
Relational health is a communal skill, and positive mental health outcomes are simply the result.
According to this study looking at relational health’s relationship with psychological distress in college women, “poor relational health increases an individual’s risk for developing psychological distress.”
And the University of Exeter in the UK reveals that “there is an increasing body of evidence demonstrating the association between positive relationships and health and wellbeing.”
So, relational health is not only a way for us to get in touch with and understand the community we’re trying to serve—but also a way to impact the wellbeing of the community as a whole.
How should relational health inform your marketing message?
We go on and on about cultural competence at T3E—for good reason. As healthcare marketers, it’s imperative that we understand our audience if we want to help them make healthy choices.
Without relational health, you can’t achieve true cultural competency.
In our effort to be culturally competent with every community our clients serve, we’ve become inadvertent experts in relational health.
By understanding the social systems and the conditions that create negative health outcomes in targeted communities, marketers can truly address pain points at their root.
We’ve seen the impact of having a relationship with the consumer and the community to which they belong. We’ve grasped that authenticity and trust go a long way. We’ve learned to not just listen to the loudest voices, but also the valid whispers.
And you can do the same. With a thorough understanding of relational health, you’ll have the skillset to successfully communicate with and understand the culture of the community your brand aims to serve.
How can we improve our relational health?
1. Engage with the community
You can set up a space where your audience feels safe, but this can be difficult. It’s far simpler to find a space that already exists. Making an effort to become involved in the community you serve shows that your brand truly cares. And when the community knows you care, you gain an opportunity to listen.
2. Tell the truth and develop trust
Trust comes with time. To build trust with an audience, especially with something as intimate as healthcare, it’s best to foster safety over suspicion. When engaging with a community with common values, brands can garner trust naturally.
When people trust you, they feel comfortable being vulnerable. And this is when they tell you what they need. If you’re listening, the people will tell you everything you need to know to truly serve them.
3. Nurture the relationship
Now you’ve understood the nature and qualities of the community you’re trying to serve. You’re immersed in the system in which they function daily. At this point, an approach with relational health does two things: it supports the qualities of the system that help the community, and works to change the qualities that hurt the community.
We mentioned in “3 Challenges Hispanic Women Face in Healthcare” that hiring talent that matches your target is the first step towards cultural competence. But the brands who are successful go one step further.
One, two, or even twenty members of any community only represent a sliver of their experience. To really grasp a community, understand their cultural nuances and the function of various systems in their everyday lives, there’s more brands can do.
To understand a community’s pain points, take the time to engage with the community, to garner trust through authenticity, and to continuously nurture the relationship.
Still not sure how to begin engaging with the community you serve in a relationally healthy way? We can help. Just shoot us an email, and let’s chat!