'Verywell' Builds Interactive Chat Tool To Help Discuss Vaccinations

Verywell, Dotdash’s health and wellness brand, has created a tool to practice talking to anti-vaxxers.

The tool, called “Healthy Conversations,” simulates a conversation in a text message-like format that you might have with a “vaccine skeptic.” 

Users can choose their own topic and go through a series of common questions, answers and concerns with the “conversation coach.” The tool takes into account clear and medically accurate talking points to promote vaccination.



A user can choose to talk to a friend or relative, or a partner, for example, and then choose responses to prompts on the topic. A user can get the comment: "I don’t want to put them at risk for autism or any other potential side effects," and choose how to respond from a list of three answers. The tool explains why one answer is better than the other, and helps guide the conversation.

“At Verywell, we take seriously the responsibility of not just making important health information available, but actually facilitating the learning process that will help people take action,” Verywell general manager Rob Parisi told Publishers Daily.

Verywell is launching the tool on the topic of vaccinations, but the topic will change over time.

The idea is that “Healthy Conversations” can provide users with the information and conversation tactics to discuss sensitive health issues.

“Vaccination is the No. 1 hot-button health issue that causes disagreement among friends, family and loved ones, according to a recent Verywell survey,” the “Healthy Conversations” hub reads.

The study surveyed 1,000 people, and found one in five people disagree about vaccines (mainly with friends). The health topic of vaccines is the No. 1 source of disagreements, when compared to health insurance, smoking, CBD/cannabis, mental health, opioids, seeking medical consult, sexual health, genetic testing and assisted living.

Nearly 65% of respondents overall felt their conversations either pushed the person away or had no effect at all, per the study.

“Given the heightened interest in measles, our editorial and research teams dug in and determined a major pain point in this area was how to have a conversation about vaccines — specifically with those who are unsure or even disagree with the scientific community,” Parisi said.

All copy was reviewed for conversational sensitivity by Dr. Steven Gans, a board-certified psychiatrist, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and attending psychiatrist at McLean Hospital.

All copy was also reviewed for medical accuracy by Dr. Richard Fogoros, Verywell’s senior medical advisor.

IAC Publishing split up its flagship brand About.com in 2016 to build out topic-specific verticals from its more popular sections. It created Verywell from its health and wellness content. 

It also publishes The Balance, Lifewire, Investopedia, The Spruce and ThoughtCo, as well as beauty site Byrdie and women’s lifestyle site MyDomaine.

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