Action: Beyond Awareness

In the 80’s and 90’s I watched public broadcasting shows and tired of the environmental documentaries.

Why?

Because the documentaries left me depressed.  All the terrible changes were and still are occurring.  Man wasn’t sharing the world but dominating it.  I was made aware but left hopeless with every documentary because there were no actions I could take to help.  The documentaries brought me to awareness, but then stopped there.

I feel the same way about the slew of Awareness campaigns.  They are all the rage.

Why do we just “do” Awareness?

Because it’s the easiest type of campaign to create and to document that some type of “change” has occurred.

So there are months or weeks or days devoted to “Breast Cancer Awareness” “Pancreatic Cancer Awareness””Autism Awareness” “Mental Health Awareness” ad infinitum.

A truly positive aspect of these campaigns is the impact on acceptability.  People can bring up the word cancer in conversation,  mental health and illness is being discussed.

So what is wrong with all this “awareness”?

There are campaigns that are outdated.  An example is that  early detection via mammography leads to a cure for breast cancer.  First, those who have been diagnosed, no matter the stage, can have a recurrence.  Metastatic breast cancer is the reality for one third of those diagnosed with breast cancer.  Another fact that is not being shared by those in the Awareness business is that mammograms may not be enough to find women with dense breasts need to be notified that mammograms are not the best tools to find the lumps.  So women getting mammograms are getting false hope with the yearly all-clear.

Another example among families living with autism is lack of support for the family…the financial burden…the constant observation that must be maintained in the school system to assure care.  After graduation from high school, how does the adult child function in society?

Awareness campaigns seem to just touch the surface of a problem but do not address the nitty-gritty of those who are experiencing life fully.

And there is still the stigma that people with mental illness, metastatic disease, disabilities face?

How do those who are experiencing pancreatic cancer, breast cancer, autism, feel about all this “Awareness”?

I’m sure there comes a time when they say, “Enough already.”

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8 thoughts on “Action: Beyond Awareness”

  1. This is a subject which is of great interest to me, particularly living and working in a developing country. There is so much to do here, in terms of awareness and having access to affordable good information, treatment and care which is very unlike many other contexts. I think your point about outdated campaigns is interesting too. The examples you quote are, I fear, even worse than outdated, in that the information is incorrect and there is a need to ensure that people are aware (“how” is another question) of the true facts regarding early detection and metastasis.

    A very interesting and thought provoking post, thank you.

  2. Thank you so much for your comment. I am honored…I would like to move this conversation onto twitter and perhaps google + and try to share tools and how-to’s. My tweetchat #hchlitss is on Thursdays at 8pm ET (early morning for you) 🙂

  3. Yes, Enough Already! It’s time for a major shift and I will follow you on the path where we take action, educate so people know the TRUTH and not some twisted sound bite and push for meaningful change. Thank you, Kathleen. If enough of us keep the pressure on, we can start to shift things.

    AnneMarie

  4. Excellent discussion Kathleen. Did you read the piece earlier this year on Gayle Sulik’s blog Pink Ribbon Blues, in which Barbara Brenner shared a speech she gave at Smith College about the film, Pink Ribbons? You will agree with her following statement I am sure:

    “My argument is that, thanks in part to the pink ribbon, everyone is now aware of breast cancer, unless they are living under a rock. Isn’t it time to move beyond awareness to activism to change the course of the epidemic? The kind of activism we need is concerned with the larger context, the notion that we should evaluate the messages we get about breast cancer and breast cancer awareness in light of the issue of how we approach research and provide health care.”

  5. Excellent discussion! I was reminded while reading, of the words of Barbara Brenner, former executive director of Breast Cancer Action, in her speech at Smith College about the film, Pink Ribbons, Inc. back in February, when she said “My argument is that, thanks in part to the pink ribbon, everyone is now aware of breast cancer, unless they are living under a rock. Isn’t it time to move beyond awareness to activism to change the course of the epidemic? The kind of activism we need is concerned with the larger context, the notion that we should evaluate the messages we get about breast cancer and breast cancer awareness in light of the issue of how we approach research and provide health care. It means challenging the corporations and organizations that stand in the way of better lives for women.”

    1. I didn’t see the post on Gayle’s blog but I am in total agreement with Barbara Brenner’s statement. I have only seen the trailer of the film….I will definitely take a look! Thank you for commenting! 🙂

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