I'm as hooked into the health and wellness world as I can be, and I had no idea that November was not just Diabetes, but also Lung Cancer, Epilepsy, Hospice Palliative Care, COPD, and Pancreatic Cancer awareness month. This information really made me think. I imagine that the people in those other communities are putting a lot of effort into raising awareness... how did I not know? More importantly, is it possible to get these messages to a broader audience, and if we succeed, does the message become watered down?
What does creating awareness mean?
A few weeks ago I saw athletes wearing a lot of pink, that made me think of cancer. Is that what the campaign is intended to do? I did think about people that are affected by cancer, I didn't make a donation, I didn't read about cancer... I just thought about it.
Today President Obama proclaimed November Diabetes Awareness Month. His remarks end by saying,
I call upon all Americans, school systems, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, health care providers, research institutions, and other interested groups to join in activities that raise diabetes awareness and help prevent, treat, and manage the disease.
Now I think it's truly wonderful that the President did this, but what does the act accomplish? Who does it reach? When it does reach someone, do they have a similar reaction to when I see football players wearing pink? Will someone think about diabetes for a moment. How long does awareness take to grow, and what does it look like when it has matured? I'd hate to think that ten years from now all of our efforts culminate with a guy catching a ball while wearing blue gloves.
I'm not sure that hearing a sports commentator say, "Jones just made that catch with blue gloves Jimmy... did you know November is Diabetes Awareness month...". I mean that'd be really cool, and would indicate progress, but what is the tangible outcome? Perhaps this is the best anyone could hope for, and the end of what is reasonable?
What do I mean?
There is so much valuable information in the world that I wish I had time to devour. So many people touched by so many challenges. I don't have the luxury of time that would allow me to be aware of them all. Even if I magically found extra time, I can't in all honesty say that I'd use it to read up on COPD for example. It's with that said that I'll admit to not knowing what 'creating awarness' means, even though I spend a good part of my life trying to do it.
I want everyone to understand, but I don't think it is reasonable for them to. I want every teacher to know, every bus driver to be ready, every person I meet not to say something ridiculous about diabetes. I just don't know if it's possible, or legitimate, to expect.
Diabetes Awareness Month always makes me wonder if my efforts are focused in the right direction. I'll be spending some time this month thinking about my advocacy and awareness building efforts. I hope to come up with answers to the questions I raised here. Please add your thoughts if you feel so moved.
There are so many wonderful and loving people in our community, and they are each motivated by the purest of intentions. I wish that all of our efforts and energy could create progress that we could hold. I won't be satisfied until I hear the sentiments and understanding that emanate from within our circle, understood and reflected from outside of it.