We created PillPack to help people better manage their medications, so they can lead better, healthier lives. While adopting better routines is a huge step toward staying healthy, how people relate to their conditions plays a big role in their attitude towards their health. How we as a society understand and view these conditions affects how we help each other. And before we can help each other, we have to understand each other.
Our media is a reflection of our society — general opinion affects what we create, and what is created affects the general opinion. Today, we focus on the extremes of health. We endlessly celebrate world-class athletes. We fixate on TV shows about extreme weight loss and addiction. People with any sort of health issue are either portrayed as heroes who defied the odds, or sick, unfortunate souls who succumbed to their disease. While all this makes for great entertainment, it doesn’t get us any closer to really understanding each other.
The idea of living with conditions is slowly starting to seep into popular culture. There have been important and inspiring stories that help us understand, adjust, and redefine how we think about health and staying healthy.
Still, nearly half of American adults live with a chronic condition that they’ll deal with for their entire life. Until the stories we tell better reflect this reality, we will continue to stigmatize anything outside the mainstream definition of perfect health.
For our part, we’re launching Folks, an effort aimed at helping us redefine the idea of “normal”. The site is dedicated to sharing stories of regular people doing incredible things. These remarkable people are also working through health issues, but those issues do not define them. We hope to share important stories that will inspire you. We also hope we create new conversations about how we talk about our health.
Folks will cover the spectrum of what health means to each of us. We won’t avoid the heroic stories and the sad stories, but we will also tell stories of everyday life and the humor, banality, and joy associated with being a human.
No one is defined by just one aspect of their life; our health is no different.
We’ve shared these stories in our first issue:
- How two life-long friends travelled 500 miles and summited the Pyrenees mountains, one of them making the journey in a wheelchair
- A health advocate from Staten Island who turned her battle with Lupus on its head with the help of snail mucus and Korean pop music
- Impressionist icon Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and how he continued to paint through his final years, despite debilitating rheumatoid arthritis
- A dancer and how she’s led a successful career (and started a performance company called Sugar-Free Entertainment) while managing Type 1 diabetes
We’re excited to share these and many more. We’ll publish several every week and we hope that you’ll help us share them with the world. While we’re excited, we’re also a little cautious — there is razor thin line between celebrating someone for being unique and objectifying them for being different. This is evidence that we all have a lot to learn, and we’ll do no better by doing nothing.
The social progress being made around understanding and respecting each other — whether it’s through the lens of race, gender, sexuality, faith or otherwise — is inspiring. We’ve come far and have a long way to go. It’s time to also reconsider how we knowingly and unknowingly categorize people based on their health.
We need to rethink what it means to be “normal”. Only then can we all help each other stay healthy.
We welcome all of your feedback — and story ideas — at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Co-Founder and CEO, PillPack
Thanks to Siena Chiang, Elliot Cohen, John Brownlee, and Colin Raney for reading drafts of this post.