Every October, we know to expect lots of special events, educational efforts, and media coverage around Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Pink ribbons, wristbands, T-shirts, coffee cups and, yes, even cocktails abound as thousands of organizations seek to highlight the importance of breast health awareness, education, and research. Likewise, we’re all familiar with American Heart Month, which fittingly takes place in February, when millions of people are encouraged to take steps to improve their heart health, all while wearing red.  

There’s no escaping these and other major annual initiatives, but you might be surprised to learn there are dozens of designated months, weeks, and days for raising awareness of various health problems. Did you know April is National Foot Health Awareness Month or the first week of March is Endometriosis Awareness Week or that World Hepatitis Day falls on July 28? There are also special times of recognition for health care professionals. Take Cardiovascular Professionals Week in February, Health Information Professionals Week in March or Oncology Nursing Month in May. There are even designated times for promoting good health habits, like National Hand Washing Awareness Week, which takes place each December. In other words, there’s no shortage of health-related awareness dates.  

Maximizing awareness months, weeks or days can go a long way toward enhancing awareness and improving patient health and raising the profile of your health care organization. To reap the full benefit, it’s important to set your calendar, plan, and lay the foundation for content, special events, and social media so you can integrate your marketing initiatives to coincide with relevant awareness dates. Typically, national organizations such as the American Cancer Society or American Heart Association offer educational materials and social media toolkits to get you started.  

When it comes to planning, there’s really no limit to what you can do. You can start small, with internal initiatives, and then expand to community events. It doesn’t have to be lavish, either. Something as simple as recruiting a team of employees to participate in an awareness walk can be incredibly impactful. Some organizations, such as Rockford Gastroenterology Associates (RGA), form employee committees to brainstorm ideas. We’ve been working with RGA to fill their calendar in recognition of Colorectal Cancer Awareness (CRC) Month in March. One fun idea they came up with is a Colorectal Cancer Awareness banner signed by their team that will hang in the lobby near an assortment of educational materials. We’re also assisting with RGA’s employee appreciation night at the March 6 IceHogs game, complete with CRC Month educational slides on the video board and giveaways.  

Your goal should be to create something newsworthy, so be sure to promote your planned events well in advance in order to attract patients, community members, and media. Take pictures and post them on social media and in newsletters so people see your commitment to raising awareness and helping improve community health.