Amrita Bhowmick, MPH ’10, is not taking a traditional approach to educating the public about migraine disorder. As Vice President of Community Development at Health-Union LLC, Bhowmick recently used both her business and public health background to launch Migraine.com, a rapidly-growing migraine-specific website.
“I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to combine both my business management/marketing and public health skills into my existing role at Health Union,” said Bhowmick, who also has her MBA. “For instance, understanding community members' current health behaviors, motivations, and perceived barriers helps us develop effective segmentation, targeting, and messaging, which encourage positive changes in health behavior.”
Several recent MPH graduates—Ethan Phan, Cynthia Chen, Angelique Hrycko and Katharine Vengraitis—helped Bhowmick with the site in 2011 before they graduated. The students provided a third-party perspective on the site and gave ideas on reaching a broader audience and potential partnership opportunities.
“We were working on the launch of both Migraine.com/PRO, which is a section for healthcare professionals, and an updated Journal App at the time, and they provided helpful insights regarding how both could best meet our customers’ needs in those areas. It was particularly fun to work with them since what we are doing isn't the typical approach to public health education,” said Bhowmick.
Bhomick believes having an understanding of health policy will also be extremely helpful as the site moves into a stronger supporting role in migraine advocacy.
Since its launch in December 2010, Migraine.com has quickly become one of the fastest-growing online migraine-specific communities. According to Bhowmick, the website has approximately 250,000 hits per month and more than 7,500 members (membership is free).
“We wanted to develop a sustainable and engaged condition-specific community and leverage current and emerging social media platforms and technologies,” she said. “Migraine patients are mostly younger females, who are generally more engaged with health and active in social media, and the condition is highly symptomatic with no clear solution, so it was an ideal starting point for what we hope is a replicable model.”
Bhowmick also talked about the studies the site has conducted since launching, including a very interesting one that surveyed 1,029 respondents and focused on identifying dog alerting behaviors when patients experienced migraine attacks.
“The idea is that some dogs may alert patients to a migraine attack before they are aware of onset. And treating early during the prodrome phase which precedes more obvious ‘aura’ and ‘headache’ phases can increase effectiveness of treatment,” Bhowmick said.
That study has been accepted for publication and presentation at the European Federation of Neurological Societies meeting in Stockholm in September.
Another study that took place in May and June of 2012 looked at the impact of migraine for chronic sufferers on employment, family, and other relationships. This survey was completed by over 2,600 migraine patients and represents one of the largest studies of this type.
In addition to her MPH from Drexel University, Bhowmick holds an MBA from Temple University and a BS from Binghamton University in New York.