It’s April. It’s springtime, approaching summer. Schools are letting out. And it’s Autism Awareness Month, which gives a chance for the public — and families dealing with the disorder — to become more educated about it.
Autism is a neurobiological disorder that affects the brain and leads to communication problems and difficulty in social interactions. One in 88 children are now afflcted with autism and the number is on the rise. The cause of autism awareness is certainly worthy.
However, having a special month for a health problem is not unique. There are a myriad of health awareness days and months, including Glaucoma Awareness Month in January and World AIDS Day on December 1. In fact, there seems to be a day or month for every health issue you can think of.
But we wonder if all these health awareness months are useful.
People generally pay attention only to what they know or are already affected by.
Cancer is something many people are affected by, if not too many. There are numerous cancer charity runs (CIBC Run for the Cure), cancer awareness days and cancer charities (Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation). Every year commercials for the Princess Margaret Hospital Home Lottery are shown on TV. Cancer concerns many people and it should, because it is a serious thing to deal with.
People today are very aware of or touched by autism, cancer and heart disease, so they pay attention to those things. Or perhaps it’s because they’re conditioned to think those certain diseases are more important than others because they see it in the media so often.
But no disease or disorder is more worthy than another. In 2009, close to 51,000 people died of pneumonia. Who would have thought people die from pneumonia, let alone that many? That same year, nearly 49, 000 people died from kidney disease.
The idea of health awareness days, whether it be cancer, AIDS or austism, and months isn’t bad, but it’s unfair. Health awareness is very important, and one person can make a big change. Maybe someone can do for pneumonia what Terry Fox did for cancer.
We can’t assign a higher sense of importance to one disease over another. We have to realize our health is a lifestyle, not a special day.