Wednesday, October 10, 2007

True threat or good marketing?

It appears to be Breast Cancer Awareness month. It's hard not to notice since we're being bombarded with pink. There has been a breast cancer story on TV pretty much every night this month. The ubiquitous pink ribbons are cropping up in the darnedest places, like on key chains, car magnets, cell phones, earrings, and even on the plastic container of bakery cookies I bought at Safeway last week. With PR like this, how could we not be aware of breast cancer?

Quick: What is the leading cause of death in American women, regardless of age or race? Think it's breast cancer? Cancer in general? Guess again. Go online and you'll find the following statistic in a number of prominent places, including Websites for the CDC and the American Heart Association:

Nearly twice as many women in the United States die of heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases as from all forms of cancer, including breast cancer.
It seems to me that instead of churning out pink ribbons, the American marketing machine should be hyping little hearts.

Why does breast cancer get so much more press when cardiovascular-related illness and deaths are so much more prevalent? Is it because cardiovascular disease is fairly preventable but Americans hate to hear that they need to eat better and exercise more? Is it easier to champion a disease that seems opportunistic and therefore engenders more sympathy by default?

So, now that you're aware of the disparity in awareness campaigns, and you obviously know that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, can you also identify which month is American Heart Month, founded and promoted by the American Heart Association? I'll give you a minute to think about it. Make an educated guess based on the visual symbol--a heart. Tick...tick...tick... time's up.

American Heart Month is February. Not only that, but it has been American Heart Month, by presidential proclamation, every year for the past 44 years. That's right, the American Heart Month campaign has been pumping along since 1963. National Breast Cancer Awareness Month? Hmmm...About 20 years.

I think it's good to be aware of conditions that could potentially kill us, especially if there are things we can do to avoid getting those illnesses in the first place. That being said, isn't America focusing on the wrong thing--by a lot? Pink ribbons have become big business, and that churns up a bit of cynicism in me. Maybe the American Heart Association needs a new ad agency.

For some excellent thoughts on this subject, check out: I was going to recommend specific parts of the site, but really, the whole damn thing is great. Your brain might grow as you expand your critical thinking skills. Actually, if you read my blog, your critical thinking skills probably don't need tweaking at all, just stimulation.

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I'm going braless until November (improves circulation and makes me far more comfortable).

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