How speaking out is normalising stomas


This year’s World Ostomy Day took place on October 6th 2018, and the theme was ‘Speaking Out Changes Lives’. This got us thinking about how ostomy communication has changed over the years we’ve been working in healthcare.

Patients now have a voice. They’re empowered by better access to information and have several different channels of communication to make their opinions public. What’s more, they aren’t afraid to use them. This has transformed the way people talk about their conditions and ostomy journeys.

Model Bethany Townsend was one of the first to raise awareness of Crohn’s disease by posting photos of herself in a bikini wearing her colostomy bag. Global campaigns – such as ‘#GetYourBellyOut’, inviting ostomists to post selfies of their stoma – have helped break down old barriers and encouraged patients to be more open about their condition.

There are also a growing number of digital platforms for people to share their personal stories. Numerous Facebook support groups have been launched; vloggers have their own dedicated channels on YouTube; and bloggers, like ‘The Spoonie Mummy’, are all helping to spread the word that having a stoma is nothing to be ashamed about.

All these frank and open conversations that would have, in the past, taken place behind closed doors, are not only helping the communities of ostomists they serve. They also inform product designers – such as our client, Salts Healthcare – and, in turn, influence our approach to marketing campaigns.

It’s thanks to real ostomists speaking out that we all have more empathy and understanding of conditions that affect far more people than we might realise. Also, people living with a stoma are now more likely to hear about potentially life-changing products and services, which can only be a good thing.