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Patient Advocacy Champion Dr Ankita Batla Wins Global Leadership Prize in Health

Awards and Events 155 Add to collection

VMLY&R HEALTH's Dr named best marketing leader in creating change in health and wellness

Patient Advocacy Champion Dr Ankita Batla Wins Global Leadership Prize in Health

VMLY&R HEALTH’s Dr Ankita Batla has been named ‘Best marketing leader in creating change in health and wellness’ at the 2021 Global Women in Marketing (WiM) awards.

The win recognises the influential role Ankita has played in shaping communications designed to reduce inequities by empowering patient groups trapped in health system ‘blindspots’. In particular, her work to establish meaningful partnerships with patient organisations has transformed patient advocacy – ensuring patients’ voices are at the heart of creative campaigns and helping VMLY&R HEALTH’s clients transition to more human-centred patient engagement. 

The Global WIM awards champion women’s achievements in leadership roles across marketing. The 2021 ceremony, which returned as a live event in Central London at the start of Women’s History Month 2022, looked back on a year where women’s roles in the workplace and at home were redefined by the pandemic. 

The impact of covid has been particularly pronounced in health, where global restrictions prevented routine face-to-face interaction between patients and healthcare professionals – heaping pressure on digital communications to ensure people received optimal support for all diseases, not just covid. However, despite best efforts, the development of those communications was often missing a crucial component – insight and understanding of the real-world context.

In 2019, Ankita spearheaded the introduction and development of VMLY&R HEALTH’S Patient Partnership programme, a global initiative designed to help clients build a deeper understanding of patient communities and empower patients to co-create communications that spoke to their real-world needs.

“When covid struck, patients became socially-distanced from the decisions that mattered in health,” says Ankita. “After years of pushing for greater patient involvement in healthcare, the patient voice was suddenly shut out of the conversation. We needed to address it. The big consumer brands don’t take one step forward without consulting their customers, so my thought was: why should healthcare be any different? So we developed the patient partnership initiative – to bring the patient voice out of isolation and work together in partnership to co-create better health solutions.”

VMLY&R HEALTH has subsequently developed deep relationships with a huge number of patient advocacy groups across the globe – ensuring that patients are represented at every stage in the design of services and solutions. These partnership are helping to remove the blind spots in healthcare systems, accelerating moves towards ‘person-centred healthcare’ that reduces health inequities.

Prior to her work in health communications, Ankita’s journey – as an advocate, leader and female role model – has been inspirational. Her career in health was influenced by her grandmother who, as one of only a handful of female doctors in rural India, vowed to give away her white coat to her first grandchild. 

“I was that grandchild!” says Ankita. “That was the story of my getting into medicine. I probably didn’t have an option as a new born – but it’s fuelled a journey that I wouldn’t change in any way.”

Ankita trained and worked as a medical doctor in India before completing an MBA and moving into health communications to work on public health projects. “I’ve always felt there’s a disconnect in the way medicine is practised. Health is much more than the symptoms you see; there’s something deeper within the human context than what we look at in the clinical setting. That led me into communications. One impactful communication can affect the lives of so many people. That’s exciting.”

Understanding that human context is the focal point of the Patient Partnership initiative. “When you start speaking to patients, you really see the bigger picture of what it’s like to live with a condition. It’s more than just a set of symptoms, it’s a life story. It’s only by talking to patients that we can understand that lived experience and work together to create something that captures hearts and minds: communications that focus on the person not just the disease. That’s what the patient partnership initiative is all about.”

In September 2021, Ankita led the world’s largest patient partnership outreach project – engaging patient groups across nine countries. The project added significant value to numerous patient organisations in China, Japan, Italy, France, Germany, the UK and US.

Ankita is passionate about health equity and gender equality. Some of her patient engagement work is in conditions that disproportionately impact women – like Duchenne, where mothers are hugely affected, and melanoma, where more patients under 50 are female. 

Outside of the health sphere, Ankita founded a school in India to provide education for underprivileged children- Jatan Sansthan – changing the lives of many young girls who subsequently went on to become teachers. 

Ankita’s story is rich in passion for person-centred healthcare. After all, she says, “we’re people, not patients.” And that’s why, in Women’s History Month – which champions female achievements that are often unsung or ignored – her recognition as ‘Best marketing leader in creating change in health’ is incredibly fitting. She’s leading from the front.

The award continues the successes of female leaders at VMLY&R Health, with its CEO – Claire Gillis – picking up WIM’s inaugural health marketing leadership prize in 2019.

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VMLY&R, Tue, 22 Mar 2022 10:30:15 GMT