You know them, the Health Awareness Months. Even if you don’t realize it, you always somehow know that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. But why? Did you know there are also awareness weeks and even days? What do these months mean, what is their purpose, and most importantly, do we really need them?

What Are Health Awareness Months?

As you might imagine, an awareness month is a tool used by a community to bring attention to the condition, disease, or challenge most important to them. Asking the public to focus intensely on one issue can aid in fundraising, promote legislation, or just bring a wider understanding to a crucial issue.

It is hard to trace the origins of awareness months, but even if they seem like a creation of recent hype, they may date back longer than you think. For example, according to Wikipedia, the first recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month dates to 1949. Presidential proclamations dedicating certain days or months are easier to authenticate, and certainly go back to those like Fire Prevention Week, announced by President Woodrow Wilson, in 1920.

But Do they “Help”?

As with anything else, most people say any discussion around a health topic does nothing but good. Conversation can lead to more money raised, which can lead to research breakthroughs. But it is also fair to ask if we can actually measure the benefit of a month or a day. A focus in April on sarcoidosis awareness (among many other things) can be beneficial, but should we also ask if those affected feel ignored during the rest of the calendar year? Is a focus on one illness something that should be all over TV and Twitter one month of the year, and more or less pushed aside during the other months?

Another question to ask is – are we overwhelmed by awareness? Now that everything from low vision to men’s health has a day, a week, or a month, are we now harming causes that really do need our attention and support? Another excellent question, asked by Kim Thiboldeaux writing for HuffPost, is do awareness months and their matching ribbons commercialize illness and suffering?

Be There Every Month

These questions are valid, and might be served by a discussion that goes far beyond any day or month of the year. However, the most important result of any awareness month is the connection that people make. In her article, Thiboldeaux notes that 1 in 5 surveyed cancer patients are concerned about feeling isolated in their condition. Perhaps that is the greatest benefit (and the reason) for each month of the year now pushing for our awareness about something. Taking the time to talk to, cook for, or otherwise support someone suffering from an illness or condition goes far beyond any Facebook post or ribbon.

Get More Connected

Awareness Months have value. So does taking that active step in caring for yourself or your family. If you are facing a serious diagnosis, get involved in the community for support and take a look at to see if you would benefit from a second opinion from a world expert in your area.

Learn More