On wearing color-coded clothing for “awareness”

In case you didn’t already know, the first Friday of February is “National Wear Red Day”. This event was created by the American Heart Association to raise “awareness” of the fact that heart disease is currently the No. 1 killer of women (the CDC  says it’s also the leading cause of death in men, and men account for more than half of the deaths due to heart disease). Everyone is encouraged to wear red clothing on this day to “take action and commit to fighting this deadly disease.” A year after creating “National Wear Red Day” the American Heart Association created the “Go Red for Women” initiative, which is

a passionate, emotional, social initiative designed to empower women to take charge of their heart health as well as band together and collectively wipe out heart disease.

This initiative may sound inspiring and “empowering”, but the notion that we can use a “passionate, emotional, social initiative” to “wipe out heart disease” is laughable, especially since your risk of heart disease increases naturally and unavoidably with age.

Given the CDC claim that men account for more than half of all deaths due to heart disease, it seems a bit odd (not to mention sexist) for the American Heart Association to create a heart disease initiative just for women. This is at least partly because men in general just won’t respond to or care much about an “emotional, social initiative” like “Go Red for Women”, so it’s much easier to generate cash and/or votes by appealing to women. This is the same reason why our eyes are assaulted by such a nauseating amount of pink every October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month that I start to feel inclined to reach for some Pepto-Bismol to settle my upset stomach (until I remember that stuff is colored pink, too!), but male-oriented “awareness” events like Prostate Cancer Awareness Month are hardly noticed (I bet you didn’t know that the designated month is September and the ribbon is light blue — I certainly didn’t). Although I of course would like to find a cure for heart disease, breast cancer (my mother is a breast cancer survivor), prostate cancer, etc., I do not see how these “awareness” initiatives serve any useful purpose: despite decades of this “awareness” campaigning (who isn’t aware of breast cancer these days?) we still have no cure to show for all that time and money spent (although I suppose some “breast cancer awareness” has helped to indirectly fund plenty of abortions).

If we are really concerned about preventing and curing heart disease, cancer, etc., it’s probably best to dispense with the silly idea that wearing certain colors can help “wipe out” these health problems. Instead, it is better take real steps to maintain your own good health. To prevent heart disease, for example, the CDC recommends that women (and presumably men) should

  • Know your risk factors, adjust your lifestyle, and lower your chances for having a heart attack or stroke.
  • See your health care provider for a check-up, especially if you have any risk factors or symptoms.
  • Talk to your health care provider and ask questions to better understand your health.
  • Know your family history. There may be factors that could increase your risk for heart disease and stroke.

More generally, the CDC recommends that women (and, again, presumably men) should

  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Be active. Exercise regularly.
  • Be smoke-free.
  • Limit alcohol use.
  • Manage any medical condition you might have.

Actually, all of these suggestions are great ways for everyone — men and women, young and old, all races, etc. — to avoid health problems (and not just heart disease). Visiting your health care provider for check-ups (at least yearly) is particularly useful — your health care provider should already know your personal health risks and the best prevention steps and treatments for your potential health problems so you don’t have to bother with tracking which disease you should be “aware” of during its designated month. And at the end of the day your life, “awareness” of disease is not going to save you:

Memento mori

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2 thoughts on “On wearing color-coded clothing for “awareness”

  1. I’d say that men in general care less about their health, and, in fact, probably care less about a lot of things that are really important (no, sports don’t count as really important).  So yeah, it’s much easier to raise awareness in women than in men, and maybe then men will start paying attention. I might be stereotyping men, but, hey – I’m a man, so I don’t care 🙂

  2. Pingback: Go Red for Sexism | The Null Hypotheses

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