Women’s health on the high street: Parla and Holland & Barrett campaign for endometriosis
The campaign follows reports that 1 in 10 women suffer in silence; a statistic that Lina Chan, founder of women’s wellness platform Parla, predicts is a large underestimate.
She tells NutraIngredients: “It’s a condition that affects more people than those struggling with diabetes and asthma. Yet it takes that much longer to get the diagnosis. So, it's not small numbers, we’re talking 1.5 million women in the UK right now.”
The campaign is the latest in a string women's health focused campaigns from the UK retailer and involves the launch of a six-week e-learning programme to bring together and support women suffering from endometriosis - an extension of H&B’s catalogue of programmes for conditions such as PCOS and menopause.
The retailer has created an ‘endo’ products bundle for consumers suffering the symptoms of this condition, consisting of products such as ‘Bio-kult’ probiotics to support gut health, magnesium supplements targeting better sleep, increased energy and improved mood, and wearables for pain.
Chan highlights that she hopes the mission to improve awareness and research into such conditions to enhance the supplements that can be offered.
In addition, the campaign has involved displaying the personal story of health influencer Carla Cressy’s struggle with endometriosis in Holland and Barrett’s shop windows, describing the 10 years she struggled with misdiagnosis.
“There is no better way to break these taboos other than sharing these stories in the places where everybody's going, and that's the High Street," Chan emphasises. "If you're able to share these real stories on the High Street, I think it can be incredibly powerful.”
Chan discusses how Parla was founded following her own personal struggle with fertility and pregnancy loss:
“That entire experience, all those years, really shocked me to the core because I was someone who always exercised and was always very healthy. It felt something like an incredibly isolating experience, often involving a lot of shame and self-blaming.
“Once I emerged on the other side of it, I just realised that the current healthcare system was really failing women. Women were staying in disease states for too long.
“I thought that we really needed to change the narrative around women… one that was more empowering. So that they would engage with their bodies earlier and in a better way; bridging the gap in terms of education and providing evidence-based knowledge,” she stresses.
Chan draws attention to the complexities associated with endometriosis, and how this has led to women to wait an average of eight years to reach a final diagnosis.
Despite the lack of a current cure or proven treatment, Chan highlights the company’s focus on treating the array of symptoms the women suffer, such as pain. She discusses the partnership with ‘Myoovi’; a company providing discreet, wireless patches utilising transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) technology which has been shown to alleviate associated abdominal cramping and muscular pain.
“It's not necessarily about curing Endo because we know that there is no cure, but it's trying to highlight things that can help them on a day-to-day basis to feel better,” she underlines.
H&B discusses endometriosis on its website, noting the importance of nutrition to help those living with the condition, providing references to studies to back recommendations.
It states: Firstly, you could try to incorporate more anti-inflammatory foods into your diet to help reduce inflammatory markers. This includes a rainbow of foods like turmeric, ginger, garlic, oily fish, fruits, cruciferous vegetables, nuts and seeds.
"Try to consistently eat three balanced meals a day, each with a good source of protein, fibre, greens and healthy fats...
"Certain vitamins and minerals may be worth adding to your diet too... Here in the UK, we don’t get enough of it from November to February, so the NHS recommends taking a daily supplement during this time."
The future for women’s health
“I think three things need to be done,” Chan states, with regards to progression for the long-overlooked areas of women’s health.
“Awareness is one. I think just being able to teach more women what endometriosis is, who might potentially have it, is going to be huge.”
She then regards the need for future research, shifting to have studies which are more representative of women to investigate these conditions further.
“For so long women have been left out of research. We just don’t know enough yet [about these conditions]. I hope with research we can close this gap.”
She also notes the importance of educating doctors and GPs on these conditions, due to their critical role as ‘first point of call’.
With regards to the future space for Holland and Barrett and Parla campaigns, Chan discusses: “In September we'll do something for PCOS, in May we'll do something around fertility, and in July and October we will do something on menopause. So, you'll see a string of bringing ‘her health to the High Street’ campaigns over the course of the 12 months.”