Multicultural Insights for Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Marketing Research
When conducting healthcare market research one must be cognizant of cultural nuances, differences, and perceptions. The emergence of Hispanics, Asians and African Americans present a unique set of problems when conducting market research.
When conducting market research in the healthcare sector one must be cognizant of cultural nuances, differences, and perceptions. The emergence of Hispanics, Asians and African Americans not only present a different set of diseases for healthcare professionals to deal with, they also present a unique set of problems that bear close scrutiny when conducting market research.
It is a well known fact that these populations tend to suffer from major diseases that require special care; High Blood pressure, Diabetes, and arthritis to name a few. Past performance tells us that cultural perceptions can tend to be a hindrance to proper patient care and compliance.
In a recent set of focus groups conducted by Ebony marketing Systems, many of these perceptions have come to light. For example; we know that African Americans are prone to high blood pressure and diabetes mostly stemming from their high fat diet and mostly sedentary life style. African American perceptions of how they became sick are varied and different and therefore are treated much differently than those within the Asian culture. It seems that African Americans perceive themselves as victims. Their lower income tiers invite food companies to market high fat, high salt and generally unhealthy foods to them. There is also a distinct resistance to accepting dietary limits and making their diet the basis of a healthy change. The relationship of food as a direct link to health for African Americans is not one that has permeated widely through the community. There is a sense of invulnerability when most African Americans spend the day fighting for their very survival. The correlation of healthy food to a healthy body just doesn’t exist for a majority of African Americans.
Armed with this information before seeing an African American patient could influence a health care provider and what type of medicine they prescribe and even the dosage they select. This begs the question whether or not the drug companies produce medicines specifically for particular races or cultures. There has been talk in the industry of making custom medicine and custom doses – it makes one think could the drug companies be taking race and culture into account for new product development?
This is only one example of how multicultural opinion research mixes into the product development process. Logic dictates that other cultures have similar issues. Asians for example suffer from the same high incidence diseases as African Americans. However, the cultural perception of why they suffer from these diseases is much different. The Asian diet is similar but not far off from the African American diet. Even though Asians are known for eating more vegetables their salt content is high. The connection of something tasting good and being healthy doesn’t necessarily exist for Asians. Because the Asian diet is high in carbohydrates they are notorious for using a lot of spice, seasonings and sauces. But, again food is so important that the perception of food impacting the health of an Asian is considered far fetched (by Asians themselves).
Perceptions about food and the causation of disease must be looked at a cultural level. Other factors that could effect patient compliance is the color and size of medication, the language patient information is written in, and even the language spoken by the doctor or the nurse.
Our research has shown that in addition to race and culture, location and environment figure heavily in patient compliance. A true multicultural campaign should be developed with these factors in mind. Healthcare marketers need to be keenly aware of these influences on outcomes.
It should be noted that each culture also differs when it comes to age. Younger respondents, especially those in the Asian and Hispanic segments look at medical solutions very differently. People in the younger demographic tend to have more knowledge garnered from media influences than older respondents. Cultural roots tend to be a much stronger influence among older respondents.
The bottom line is that as our population becomes more and more diverse, the healthcare industry must follow suit and as marketers, we must support our clients in accomplishing patient diversity. “In language” studies from focus groups to ethnography should always be a consideration. Building to a crescendo, an aging non English speaking population could put our entire healthcare system in jeopardy affecting the very core of our medical system and our economy.