Women’s College Hospital illuminates health gap

A new public awareness campaign sheds light on the differences between access to health care.



As conversations about the wage gap and what to do about it rage on, Toronto’s Women’s College Hospital is attempting to draw attention to another area where men receive more than women: health care.

The “Health Gap” campaign, handled by High Road, is relying on OOH, transit, print and social ads to share facts and figures about the differences between men and women in the health-care community. The creative is driving to a microsite, which goes into more detail about just how much of a gap exists between health care for men and women, such as representation of women in research, or that women are more likely to have many forms of chronic illness and mental health issues but have greater barriers to treatment.

Women’s College Hospital’s last public awareness campaign was in 2013 ahead of the opening of its newly-built hospital building, and was more broadly focused on communicating the “three prongs” of its mandate: improving the health of women, improving solutions for women within the health-care system and finding better ways to prevent and manage chronic health conditions. Lili Shalev-Shawn, chief communications and marketing officer at Women’s College Hospital, says that in addition to being a broader campaign, “Health Gap” is focused more exclusively on the first prong.

“One of the most important things we learned from our previous campaign is that there are all sorts of conversations and knowledge and research being shared about this issue between people in the health sector, but the general public has very little awareness about it,” she says. “WCH has always been committed to health equity, and feel like it’s our responsibility to share our knowledge with the general public so we can all help to solve these issues.”

Though both elements factor in, Shalev-Shawn adds that the campaign is focused primarily on the “health gap” issue as a whole, with WCH’s role within it a secondary message, as the view is that WCH can’t help solve the issue on its own. That not only means letting the public know about the issue, but having the hospital itself and the foundation behind it work together on the campaign. Though the two have the same public-facing brand, working together is an important element to the campaign, as it allows it to educate the public about the kind of work WCH aims to do while also helping the foundation reach its goals for fundraising.

“We had a campaign raise $77 million to build this new hospital, so this is something our community and donors feel very strongly about and have shown, in the past, that this is something they believe in and will help us fund for,” says Cathy Carter, executive director and chief community officer at Women’s College Hospital. “We’ve had 22,000 new donors since 2006 when WCH became independent and separated from Sunnybrook. This campaign is an activation of what the brand stands for to the public, but it’s also galvanizing support from our existing and recently-added donors who want to take what we do to the next level.”

In addition to the creative elements, the campaign features a heavy influencer-relations element, with WCH not only utilizing influencers active in the health and lifestyle spaces, but ones with a broader appeal to women as a whole.

“Because we’re trying to educate the public, besides just putting out our own messaging and what we feel the issues are, we wanted to create a conversation and get input from others and ideas about what they see as gaps in women’s health,” Shalev-Shawn says. “Even though it’s an issue that has been around for a long time, the wage gap has reached a critical mass in terms of broad exposure, understanding and conversations around it. We’re hoping to borrow a little bit from that issue.”