Raising awareness in 2011 is no easy task.
A recent internet search of awareness efforts in May turned up 22 different causes, from asthma and allergy to stuttering awareness. As yet, the National Health Observances Calendar doesn't include Preeclampsia Awareness Month, although efforts are underway (with Congressional support) to add it.
So what can the Preeclampsia Foundation, an organization that recently celebrated its 10th birthday, learn from more established organizations and their campaigns?
Pink ribbons, red dresses, and yellow rubber bracelets immediately come to mind. Certain trends are prevalent in these successful awareness campaigns: a concerted public relations campaign, a celebrity spokesperson, partnerships with like-minded organizations, but most importantly, a clear message of the impact that a condition has on the American population.
Can an awareness "month" matter as we seek to raise the profile of our lesser-known, but equally worthy cause, amidst all the media noise - social and traditional - that surrounds us today? Raising awareness in 2011 may seem impossible, but we're trying - and succeeding - with your support.
Since its inception, the Foundation's motto has been "know the symptoms, trust yourself." This still rings true - and loudly - today. For a disease like preeclampsia that can present itself disguised as a number of less serious conditions, is hard to pronounce and is often called by many different names, a clear concerted message about the potential impact of the disorder and an understanding of the warning signs can literally be life-saving.
The first line of defense has to start with the pregnant woman and the people around her who care about her well-being. When armed with the proper information about relevant warning signs, she can be a forceful advocate for her own care, securing attention from care providers who respond diligently.
Hundreds of volunteers across the country are planning events to call attention to the disease. Twenty-three Promise Walks for Preeclampsia are being held nationwide with related activities such as guest speakers, appearances by media personalities, free blood pressure screenings, silent auctions, raffles, and memorial events. Preeclampsia awareness magnet "ribbons" are popping up on cars and a public art project has been created that will tour the country, beginning at Brown University in Rhode Island. Check out these events as well:
- May 11 from 2-3 p.m. (EDT) - The Preeclampsia Foundation will be a featured guest on the March of Dimes' Twitter-based "Pregnancy Chat" an hour-long discussion about preeclampsia. To participate, register on Twitter and search for #pregnancychat during the event to participate.
- Week of May 2 - NewsMomsNeed, the March of Dimes official blog will feature two members of the Preeclampsia Foundation as guest bloggers - one in English and one in Spanish - highlighting the unique challenges faced by preeclampsia survivors in planning for future pregnancies. The Spanish blog will be posted at blog.nacersano.org.
- May 18-19, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island - Debut of "Field of Cradles" public art project by artist Susannah Pabot.
- Survivor Shirts, specially created to duplicate the Foundation's survivor pin design by artist Melissa Muir, and "awareness ribbon" car magnets are available via the online Marketplace. Look for special coverage about preeclampsia on Babycenter.com and other parenting blogs and websites.
But raising awareness is about more than a banner or a single event. Preeclampsia Awareness Month is about taking action. May is not a culmination, but a beginning. So, after you have absorbed the critical messages about preeclampsia, don't let the knowledge you have gained go to waste. See our "Engaging Walkers to Create Lifelong Supporters" for some tips on catalyzing your local group and taking further action.
Make 2011 a year of action for preeclampsia awareness.