2022 Social Health Awards Winners
Last updated: October 2023
The Social Health Awards honor and recognize the efforts of patients and caregivers within their communities and at the industry level. Our Health Leaders constantly amaze us through their unique advocacy efforts. Supporting fellow patients and caregivers with the tools they need to be the best version of themselves is worth celebrating.
Our judges had an incredibly difficult task narrowing down all of the tremendous nominees. To determine the finalists, members of the online health community volunteered their time to narrow down nominations to just 60 finalists. From there, our industry judges provided weighted scores to ultimately uncover the Social Health Awards winners.
Here are the recipients of the 2022 Social Health Awards.
Rookie of the Year: Jill King
Jill began experiencing chronic pain the month she graduated from high school. Her health continued to decline, and she became blind at 20 years old. Jill found the disabled community and, along with it, found ways to thrive. She educates and advocates through social media, and founded the Students with Disabilities Advocacy Group at Georgia Southern, where she fights for accessibility on campus and within her rural area.
Creative Contributor: Erica Carrasco, Achy Smile
Erica Carrasco, aka Achy Smile, is a migraine advocate from Texas. Erica’s creative advocacy knows no bounds. With a candid and open dialogue, Erica is shining a light on a life with hemiplegic migraine with her husband as they tell their story. Together they discuss what their family life is like and how important advocacy is to the migraine community. Their brand, Achy Smile, is a Partner of the American Migraine Foundation and the Association of Migraine Disorders.
Caregiving Champion: Elle Cole
Elle is a mom of twin daughters, one of whom is living with both sickle cell disease and type 1 diabetes. Elle serves as a parent health advocate for both illnesses and authored “A Sickle Cell Coloring Book for Kids,” which is an A-to-Z guide for growing up with sickle cell disease.
After homeschooling for several years, in 2019 Elle started the Cleverly Changing podcast with a friend. The podcast offers homeschool support to moms, dads, and their children. During school learning transitions, Elle shares practical information for families and children who are not able to attend in-person school on how to homeschool or work while children are learning remotely. Each day thousands of people follow Elle’s family’s journey on cleverlychanging.com.
Revolutionary Researcher: Aaron Blocker
Aaron lives with Crohn’s disease and an ultra-rare genetic metabolic bone disease called hypophosphatasia. Over the last 10 years, Aaron has been heavily involved in patient advocacy related to inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), building an online community of more than 30,000 patients and caregivers who have been affected in some way by IBD.
Aaron's goal has always been to make sure the patient voice is heard in any and all decisions that affect patients. Aaron likes to use his background in scientific research to break down those hard-to-understand topics related to the disease so that patients can understand the most recent research and breakthroughs.
Community Cultivator: Natalie Hayden
Natalie is a former TV news anchor living in St. Louis. Her mission in life is to be an advocate for those battling inflammatory bowel disease and to show that a chronic illness doesn’t have to dull your sparkle.
Natalie was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in July 2005, just 2 months after graduating from college. After several hospitalizations, countless medications, and flare-ups, she underwent her first surgery in August 2015. Natalie’s blog, Lights, Camera, Crohn’s, covers everything from overcoming struggles to celebrating small victories throughout all parts of the patient journey from diagnosis and beyond. Natalie enjoys sharing stories about pregnancy and motherhood in hopes of comforting and empowering others.
Best Team: Fibromyalgia Care Society of America
Mildred Velez founded the Fibromyalgia Care Society of America (FCSA) in 2015 after noticing a gap in existing nonprofit activity around the condition, which often focused on awareness and research projects. Diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2007, she aimed to provide services to each person in need, addressing their immediate situations while researchers labor to find better treatments or to find a cure.
The FCSA’s Center of Excellence program accomplishes this aim. It serves small cohorts of people with fibromyalgia, offering support groups and workshops on pain management, mental health, and dietary strategies to reduce symptoms. As an organization, the FCSA strives to impact the community by providing programming and resources that are innovative, impactful, and consistent.
Social Media Master: Rachel Hill, The Invisible Hypothyroidism
Rachel Hill, aka The Invisible Hypothyroidism, is a highly ranked and award-winning thyroid patient advocate, writer, blogger, speaker, and author. Appearing on podcasts, in interviews, and writing for many well-known websites, she has worked with The National Academy of Hypothyroidism, The BBC, The Mighty, Yahoo, and MSN, to name just a few.
Rachel began her thyroid advocacy journey in 2015 following the diagnosis of autoimmune thyroid disease after many years of frustration and missed opportunities. Rachel is well-recognized as a valuable contributor to the thyroid community, having published two books “Be Your Own Thyroid Advocate” and “You, Me and Hypothyroidism.”
Healthcare Collaborator: Ella Balasa
Ella was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at 18 months old. Despite having 25 percent lung function, Ella has never let it be her excuse. She is a writer, a patient advocate, and a scientist who graduated with a degree in biology and has worked in an environmental microbiology lab.
Over the past few years, Ella has become increasingly involved in the CF community. She has found opportunities to serve on research committees and organize a research-focused CF virtual conference. Through her writing, she has been able to provide a scientific voice and encourage empowerment to the CF community, along with sharing the hardships and triumphs that come along with a chronic illness.
Advocacy Trailblazer: Melissa Talwar, Support Fibromyalgia
Melissa’s chronic pain journey began at the age of 14, and after a long 20-year decline and a laundry list of diagnoses, she took her health into her own hands. Through biohacking, she has reclaimed wellness again and is focusing her energy on building the nonprofit organization Support Fibromyalgia Network and sharing group health coaching with the chronic illness communities.
#SupportFibro believes in collaboration and is dedicated to bringing the fibromyalgia community together through patient and medical education, advocacy training, health coaching, and support for fibromyalgia research.
Lifetime Achievement: Kristal Kent
As an army veteran, Kristal engages in legislative and healthcare advocacy to help the fibromyalgia/veteran communities better understand their illness, educate people on patient healthcare rights, help people apply for disability benefits, review best practices to advocate for their healthcare needs, and promote fibromyalgia support and awareness on social media.
Kristal uses social media to provide her communities with up-to-date information and research, connect people living with fibromyalgia/chronic pain throughout the world, and help build their support networks. She is also the founder of the Fibromyalgia Pain Chronicles and Veteran Voices For Fibromyalgia.