It seems like National Dog Day is every week (which we don’t have a problem with at all), and it also seems like National Best Friend Day happens multiple times a year, too. Have you ever looked at an observance day calendar? There is a day or a month dedicated to celebrating just about anything you can imagine. Even National Sauce Month – yes, sauce. All of these observance days and months are fun and a great excuse for social media presence, but there are some observances that can truly make a difference in our lives. These are the National Health Observances.
National Health Observances (NHOs) are a specific day, week or month that is dedicated to promoting a specific health issue. These observances serve as an excellent opportunity to educate, raise awareness and get people involved in the prevention of countless health-related problems and topics. Generally, professional associations, federal government agencies, research centers and non-profit organizations sponsor NHOs, validating these observances even more.
Everybody knows the big ones: Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October and World AIDS Day on December 1st, amongst a few others. But there are tons of other NHOs that seek to educate us and bring awareness to various health-related topics. These ones may be worth paying a little bit more attention to than, say, National Lumpy Rug Day (which is this month in case you didn’t know).
While it is unknown exactly how or when the promotion of these NHOs began, the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion began publishing health observance dates in 1982 and the idea has been growing ever since.
However, not just anybody can decide that they want to create an NHO day or event; there is a diligent process that one goes through to get their topic on the NHO calendar. The event must be nationally recognized and sponsored by a national organization or recognized by the U.S. Congress, the White House or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Also, the event must be educational and focused on prevention, rather than promotion, of an industry or profession. If the event meets all of the necessary criteria, then it may be added to the official NHO calendar.
History has shown that these NHOs can raise enough awareness to bring about change at the legislative level. For example, in 2007, the National Women’s Healthy Heart Campaign in February sparked The Heart Disease Education, Analysis and Research, and Treatment for Women Act that works to improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disease in women. There are many other examples of how these observances have influenced legislation, but there are surely even more instances when these days, weeks and months dedicated to a cause have provided education and awareness that has impacted, and perhaps saved, individual lives.
So while National Ice Cream Day and National Peanut Butter Lovers Month may be fun, NHOs, such as National Arthritis Awareness Month in May and National Alzheimer’s Disease Month in November, hold the power to truly make a difference in the lives of those paying attention.
For more information on how to declare an NHO or general questions, visit https://healthfinder.gov/NHO/FAQ.aspx. For the full 2019 calendar, visit https://healthfinder.gov/NHO/nhoyear.aspx?year=2019.