This month I’ll mostly be aware of….

Masses! Absolutely masses. Health awareness and charities….. Tch. It’s all gone to nonsense, hasn’t it? There are so many Days/Weeks/Months the concept is just silly, offering little of actual use to the audience. Many are only done because it’s ‘what you do’ in broad-brush healthee charidee way.

It’s often all about the organiser anyway…. not actually the cause, certainly not the audience, indiscriminately sprayed with media messages - which often boil down to a vague 'we're raising awareness' - of what, exactly? Why? And 'for whom?' are often not spelled out.   

Awareness Days/Weeks/Months are an uncomfortable muddle of brand awareness for the organising charity and fundraising ambition, loosely styled as health promotion/information.

Their ubiquity is both awesome and yawnsome.

I am a middle aged woman. Grey of hair and obviously grey of mood. Here’s a review of this month’s offerings on awareness. Which will a) I even spot and b) mean anything to me?

I assert awareness should be all about me as the potential audience. I’ve concocted three different degrees of audience I can occupy,

  • First order audience: Me
  • Second order: Family or someone I know is affected, or at risk.  
  • Third order: Everything else, where the risk is theoretical, remote or entirely unquantifiable, or affects ‘others’ whom I don’t know and with whom I am unconnected, even though I may, and probably do, sympathise….

If this annoys you and you think I should pay avid attention to all the possible awareness dates, you assume greater degree of neuroticism about my life than I can currently muster. Mind you, If I do muster the level of interest you suspect might be appropriate, I clearly have a mental health problem to address, too. There’s no mental health Awareness Day/Week/Month in June as far as I can see.

…..for June’s awareness offerings it is as follows:

All June: Everyman Male Cancer Awareness Month. Yep. Heard of this. I’m second order audience as I have met and quite like some men and am related to some others. I also have a professional interest in it. It’s important. Everyman often do really catchy adverts but I’m a bit edgy here - putting cancer in front of men using men-specific cancers is more about bigging up the organisation running the month, than it is about the audience of men who might come across the messages. So it’s a 'no' from me. Blokes who get lung or bowel cancer get nothing from this. They may become very good at testicular awareness because men-specific is what they understand that's the major danger for men from cancer…...  hmmmm



All June: SANDS (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society) Awareness Month. Third order audience, I’m not the target, really. And is it really about awareness of the society, not the issue? Have I copied it down wrong? If not, this must be the most honest branding of a Month ever. I think it is entirely legitimate, by the way. Men and women need to be aware there is a society working on behalf of families where still birth and early infant deaths have occurred. Raising awareness of an organisation's brand is fine by me, but say that is what you are doing; just don't pretend the brand is the same as the cause. The brand becomes the cause. See?

All June: Motor Neurone Disease (MND) Awareness Month. Third order awareness issue, for me.

3-9 June Heart Rhythm Week. Seems important. Second order audience. I have a heart rhythm, it seems OK….. My aged aunty has a heart rhythm problem but that’s so far down the list of a load of other worries that currently surround her 90 year old self that I won’t be paying any attention to this one.

21- 28 June National Myeloma Awareness Week Not for me. Third order audience. I haven’t got it and don’t think I know anyone who has. Rare cancers are a problem, I agree. How to keep them in proportion, when ‘in proportion’ disadvantages those who actually get it?  Myeloma and sarcoma (of which more later) are similarly challenged. Moving swiftly on….

23- 29 June Metabolic Disease Awareness Week. Not for me either. I haven’t got one and don’t think I know anyone who has.

24-30 June Cystic Fibrosis Week This is for me, for professional reasons. The increasing longevity and the ageing population of people with CF are a phenomenon of note….. as is organ transplantation, a current interest in my working life.

9-15 June  Cervical Screening Awareness Week. I should be first order audience. If the thrust is about informed consent to screening I’ll play along. If it’s just a drive to screening I’ll still notice it but absolutely not in a positive way.
 

9-15 June Diabetes Week. Second order audience. Generally important but not for me with my normal weight, diet, blood glucose and family history. I do have a portly bro so I will worry diffusely on his behalf but no one out in health charity world should be expecting me to keep track of my entire family’s potential need for health information and awareness and keep track of all of them.

If you do, yours is a flaky organisation.

10-16 June National Hydradenitis Suppurativa Awareness Week. Not for me. I haven’t got it and don’t think I know anyone who has. Moving on….

10-16 June Huntington's Disease Awareness Week. As above, really.

10-16 June National Glaucoma Awareness Week. As above.

10-16 June National Men’s Health Week. Very important and commendably unusual in being about people, not a condition. It’s actually the best Awareness Month as a result, but it’s lost on the list, though it is a standout offering, against the reductionist obsession with one-disease-at-a time-please which makes most health awareness so unlikely to work.

10-16 June Breathe Easy Week – all about respiratory disease. Not very flashy but a very important non disease-specific cause, which is relevant to a lot of people but not for me, nor anyone I know yet, as far as I can tell.....

17–23 June National Falls Awareness Week – V. important and we have an ageing and frail population so more falls and more needs are on the way.  I have no idea at what age or what physical state I need before I might pay proper attention to this week. Almost certainty it’ll happen just after I’ve fallen over for the first time as an older adult. Too late, then!

17-23 June Sarcoma Cancer Awareness Week I’m second order audience for this as I have sarcoma in the family and work in the area but as a rare cancer like myeloma it gets into difficulty as most people will simply never come across it. In common with many rare conditions awareness Days/Weeks/Months are excellent for the coming together of an ‘affected’ community, although they remain misaligned with what is actually relevant and possible to communicate to enough of the general public, all 65+million of them.

1 June Hypoparathyroidism Awareness Day. Missed that.

8 June International Tampon Alert Day. Nah, not me any more….. and I won’t be approaching women I know about it, either….

21 June Wrong Trousers Day. Wassis? Turns out its hospices and hospitals for children. Important  but it’s fundraising rather than health awareness.  

Every message takes up the place of some other message, so which are most important to absorb? I don’t know, I’m just pointing out why these Days/Weeks/Months won't be as useful as commonly assumed. The sheer number must be counter-productive. People must be distracted by the wrong ones or the slicker one or the best resourced ones, most familiar ones…… all as chosen by the media anyway….

To be clear, I do not doubt the importance of the issues, I doubt the value of Awareness Days/Weeks/Months that go alongside them. They are not the same thing.

Finally, the joker in the pack amongst June’s awareness weeks. The only one I actually hope gets lost in the blizzard of all the others.

14 – 21 June Homeopathy Awareness Week. Crossed fingers it gets diluted to uselessness in this long list. This awareness week is the only one here that should be floated out to the mid Atlantic, diluted even further and sunk without a trace.