Written in late March 2018
As I type this, I’m on a plane thousands of feet above the earth, traveling to my home state of Georgia. I’ve just spent two days with a couple hundred colleagues in the patient advocacy/healthcare community field, and I am so grateful and happy I feel as if my heart could burst.
The heart beat behind online communities
Even people who’ve been visiting migraine.com for years may not realize that the beating heart behind this online community also serves many other condition-specific communities (and corresponding social media accounts). This beating heart has a name: Health Union.
Health Union is the parent company of migraine.com and many other websites for chronically ill patients, their caregivers, and their loved ones. (Click here for a full list of all the online health communities currently in existence.) In 2010, when Health Union was getting started, the founders approached me and a few other migraine bloggers about contributing to their website, migraine.com.
Putting patients first
At that point, I had stepped away from writing frequently on my blog, The Migraine Girl, focusing most of my energy on the business I was trying to launch. When Health Union approached me about a writing gig, I was hesitant—like many chronically ill people, I am continually short on time and try to make sure I spend my healthy hours in meaningful activities (including and in addition to work). A few other health websites had emailed me about being a contributor, but I usually passed: after doing a little digging, I’d almost inevitably find out that those sites were owned by a pharmaceutical company. That’s all well and good, but if I was going to dedicate my time and talent to a website, I wanted it to be one that had the patients’ best interests at heart in all ways without the need to consider the interests of big pharma.
Health community of dreams
Imagine my delight to find out that Health Union was the health community of my dreams. The founders truly have patients’ needs at the center of all their work, and they provide platforms that do not just provide basic information to those affected by chronic illness—they provide a true community where people share their experiences and feel validated, to know they aren’t alone.
It’s been eight years since migraine.com launched, and the company has grown tremendously. Because of stellar, heart-centered leadership and a clear mission that always puts people first, Health Union has gone from four employees and a handful of contributors to many, many employees and hundreds of contributors, all of whom use their time and talents to make sure millions of those affected by chronic illness have access to information and community support.
The power of in person gatherings
For the second year in a row, Health Union invited its contributors to a conference in their home city of Philadelphia–that’s the conference I’m returning from now. We contributors (article writers) and moderators (those who reply to your comments, questions, and concerns on all platforms; many moderators are contributors as well) gathered for sessions on storytelling, effective moderation, empathy, and so much more.
Many of you readers know how powerful it is to finally meet—virtually or otherwise—people who “get” you, people with whom you can speak openly about your diagnosis/diagnoses in a judgment-free zone. Though I am lucky to know many migraine patients in real life, it’s been a tremendous pleasure and honor to meet migraine patient advocates/writers in person.
Endless amount of support for chronical illness
No matter what Health Union site you’re visiting, know that there are hundreds of contributors eager to hear from you and talk with you about your life with health issues. We can be here to validate your experiences and, when appropriate, give you information that will help you learn more about your condition and how to talk about it with people in your own life. At the helm, there are leaders who are truly spending their days working to make sure people affected by illness feel listened to and validated while having access to accurate, timely information that may help you live a better, more well-rounded life with a chronic condition.
Thanks for reading, and thanks for being such an integral part of this magical community. Whether you’re someone who comments a lot, an actual Health Union employee, or a reader who prefers not to participate in online conversation, we’re here for you and are so thankful to share this space with you.