The podcast topics range from intuitive eating and infertility to COVID vaccine development and stroke prevention.
What separates these podcasts from countless others is the target audience: frum Jewish women in the New York area seeking accurate information on an array of medical issues through a culturally appropriate forum.
The JOWMA Preventative Health Podcast is a project of the Jewish Orthodox Women’s Medical Association, an organization dedicated to providing support, mentorship and networking opportunities to Jewish female physicians, trainees and pre-med students, as well as providing preventative health education, women’s health education, and patient advocacy to the Orthodox Jewish community. It is coordinated by the organization’s preventative health committee, co-chaired by Dr. Alisa Minkin and medical student Sheindel Ifrah Goldfeiz, and is an extension of the committee’s preventative health hotline.
“We created the JOWMA hotline and podcast to provide proactive, honest and trustworthy health information. We strive to provide culturally sensitive and accessible preventative medical information geared to the whole spectrum of Orthodox Jews,” said Minkin and Ifrah Goldfeiz.
Just six months after JOWMA’s founding and in response to the spring 2019 measles outbreak in Brooklyn and Rockland County, the organization launched a measles vaccine hotline, which primarily targeted communities without internet access. After the outbreak was over, the hotline was reconfigured into the preventative health hotline. Updated monthly, the hotline aims to educate listeners about relevant topics such as safety and injury prevention, mental health resources, vaccine safety and more.
Dr. Minkin, a pediatrician in Oceanside, has been involved in JOWMA since its founding in May 2019; in addition to co-chairing the preventative health committee, she is a member of the organization’s advisory board. A physician for 27 years and the mother of six, she was immediately drawn to the organization’s involvement in public health advocacy, starting with the measles outbreak. “I said, ‘Wow, this is amazing.’ Things are just starting and they’re already getting active in the community.”
Ifrah Goldfeiz is a former social media strategist who began medical school after having two children, now ages five and two. Originally JOWMA’s director of website development and communications, she has since taken on multiple leadership roles in addition to her podcast responsibilities, including serving as vice-chair of the mentor committee and member of the social media, membership and advisory committees.
The podcast is an extension of the hotline and was created to reach and engage a larger audience. “We wanted to reach women who don’t call hotlines but listen to podcasts, which are a socially acceptable platform,” said Ifrah Goldfeiz. “The goal is to speak to relevant topics that are generally not spoken about in the community or given from direct healthcare sources, and serve as an accurate source of health-related information empowering listeners to make sound medical decisions,” she added.
The podcasts are a huge undertaking for the two women, but both agree it is well worth it. Ironically, the COVID lockdown provided time for them to get the project off the ground; they began building its audience and were able to focus on becoming a primary source for both general health care information, women’s health topics, COVID-19 and other health-related topics for their listeners. The first episode aired in February. New podcasts are posted weekly on Thursdays.
The podcast is an interview-style show. Minkin, as host, selects the subject matter and lines up her guests, medical experts who bring their unique expertise and experience to each episode. She then develops her list of questions and records from her home. She acknowledged that finding guests for a weekly podcast takes a lot of work.
“It requires deep research and it’s important that interviewees be passionate about their subject and sensitive to the charedi community,” said Minkin. Guests include physicians referred by JOWMA members or members themselves, and doctors she already knows. “I am also very passionate about mental health and I keep my finger on the pulse of who is out there. I also pay attention to new organizations on social media and magazines like Mishpacha.” She hopes to get a prominent epidemiologist to talk about COVID.
Ifrah Goldfeiz handles the technical side: publishing the podcast onto popular platforms including, among others, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Anchor and Google. She plays an active role in helping to maintain the JOWMA Instagram page to draw attention to new podcasts as they become available.
Minkin and Ifrah Goldfeiz stay in constant contact with JOWMA’s social media committee to make sure the podcasts are being advertised on appropriate social media platforms. Pre-med and high school student volunteers post the podcasts to YouTube and transcribe them into documents posted on the JOWMA website to provide access to the hearing impaired.
Among others, past podcasts include episodes on intuitive eating, infertility, mental health (including eating disorders and body image), ADHD and heart health. The most popular podcast to date is the Confident Kallah (fostering healthy sexuality in daughters), which has been listened to by almost 800 people. In efforts to share accurate and fact-based information, several episodes have been COVID-related on topics such as pandemic parenting, quarantine fatigue and vaccine development.
To promote the podcasts, the women have advertised in charedi publications, on Facebook and Instagram, and by word-of-mouth. “The biggest challenge is developing a working relationship with the charedi community that is built on trust, transparency and open communication, while at the same time tackling difficult subjects,” said Minkin, a member of the Charedi Health Coalition, an organization that partners with the New York City Department of Health to promote culturally sensitive public health.
In addition to the hotline and podcast, JOWMA recently held a virtual Women’s Health Initiative three-day webinar that drew 1,200 registrants from all over the world. A new feature on its website is its COVID-19 response, which provides a wealth of information to keep community members informed and safe.
To access the JOWMA Preventative Hotline, call (929) 4-GEZUNT (9868). JOWMA Preventative Health Podcasts are available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Breaker, PocketCasts and RadioPublic. Further information is available by visiting www.jowma.org.