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Why stop with simple recognition? Turn 'awareness' days into bona fide holidays

March 11, 2010 | 10:33 am

Mask "Recognizing National Public Health Week will serve as an important reminder for individuals, families and communities to focus on stopping preventable diseases before they start,” says Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.).

“National Public Health Week offers a reminder to all of our nation’s families that many of the choices we make in our daily lives directly determine how long we live and how well we live,” says Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-East Los Angeles).

Both are quoted in this release from the National Public Health Assn. Both have introduced resolutions calling attention to National Public Health Week. (It's April 5-11, should you want to mark it on your calendars.)

But is simply calling more attention to National Public Health Week enough? April is already a busy month as efforts to raise awareness go. 

April is also ...

* Alcohol Awareness Month

* Foot Health Awareness Month

* Irritable Bowel Syndrome Awareness Month

* National Autism Awareness Month

* National Cancer Control Month

* National Child Abuse Prevention Month

* National Donate Life Month

* National Facial Protection Month

* National Minority Health Awareness Month

* National Sarcoidosis Awareness Month

* National Youth Sports Safety Month

* Occupational Therapy Month

* Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month

* Sports Eye Safety Month

* Women's Eye Health and Safety Month

And, let's not forget, April also has ...

* World Health Day

* National Alcohol Screening Day

* Sexual Assault Awareness Month's Day of Action

* National Infant Immunization Week

* and World Meningitis Day.

If we're serious about calling attention to the importance of public health, it's time to raise the stakes. Let's make April 5 an official holiday -- no mail delivery, no school, no banking services, the whole nine yards. We could use it for vaccinations, screenings, lectures on nutrition, group exercise classes in the park...

In fact, perhaps other awareness-raising efforts need their own holidays too -- but only the truly deserving ones. We'd hate to cheapen the impact of these noble health observances.

Here's the text of the resolutions. And here's the full observances calendar.

-- Tami Dennis

Photo: This traveler at LAX, arriving last spring during the swine flu outbreak, is a likely candidate for the "be aware of public health" message. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times