Do National Awareness months really make a difference anymore?

September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness month. And National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery month. And Newborn Screening Awareness month. It's also the month when we're supposed to increase awareness of fruits and vegetable consumption, healthy aging, leukemia and lymphoma, childhood obesity, atrial fibrillation, cholesterol education, sickle cell disease, head lice prevention, ITP, prostate cancer, ovarian cancer, whole grain consumption, and yoga.

And those are just the month-long awareness campaigns-there are more than a dozen other official awareness days or weeks to highlight on our September calendars, covering everything from HIV to how to cook with honey.

Who can keep track of it all anymore?

There are more awareness campaigns out there than there are ribbon colors. A snippet of purple officially represents 21 unrelated causes, from lupus research to domestic violence prevention to awareness of eating disorders; a twist of orange on your lapel can indicate that you're raising awareness for ADHD or malnutrition or Multiple Sclerosis or six other things. If you get your green, jade, and teal ribbons mixed up, you may inadvertently show support for a cause you don't care about. Silver ribbons support brain disorder research, but plain old gray is for zombie awareness.

With so many campaigns going on at the same time, you can end up with a disease-awareness day scheduled during a month that celebrates the thing that causes the disease. Case in point: September is Whole Grains month, but September 13 is National Celiac Awareness Day, dedicated to an auto-immune disease triggered by the consumption of gluten, which is found in many popular grains.

Or you can have different days in different months that focus on the same issue: International Stuttering Awareness day is October 22, for example, while National Stuttering Awareness week is the 9th through the 15th of May (which is also Better Hearing and Speech month).

Does all of this awareness translate into action? Or are we so accustomed to seeing Facebook status updates and different-colored ribbons pinned to clothing or promoted on products that none of it makes a difference anymore?

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