Last week, my undies were bundled by the pink ribbon campaign. I questioned their effectiveness and pondered on the energy taken from other critical health issues. I asked the popular campaign to invite awareness about environmental toxins to their party. I made some lovely suggestions about giving locally so as not to lose your money in a sea of pink.
I’ve pretty much exhausted my ramblings on the topic and I’m sure you’re ready for me to move on. Just…one…more….thing…
What about prevention?
“Early detection saves lives!” is a fine message. A mammogram caught my mom’s wee lump early on, so off I dutifully go to my annual squishings. (Seriously mammograms? The same machine my grandma used? Can we maybe sink a little pink ribbon teddy bear $$ into developing a kinder, gentler device?)
But not getting sick in the first place? That saves lives too. So why does the pound of “for the Cure” resonate more loudly than the ounce of prevention?
I certainly get why conventional medical systems and insurance companies don’t jump on the prevention bandwagon. They thrive on detecting and treating disease. There are more profits in drug sales, expensive diagnostics and procedures than proper lifestyle education or preventative therapies. I get that.
But I don’t understand us. We collectively bitch and moan about the godawful health care system that we have to access after we’ve refused to move our bodies, monitor what goes into our pie holes and address our stress levels. WE are in control of multiple known risk factors for all types of cancer; smoking, alcohol consumption, poor diet and physical inactivity.
We are also in control of probable risk factors; toxins found in food, personal hygiene and household products. WE choose the ingredients we eat, rub into our lymph nodes and spray into the air we breathe.
So what keeps us from taking better care of ourselves? Is it easier to rely on “awareness” campaigns to remind us what month to take care of our specific body parts rather than engage in an ongoing crusade of comprehensive health? Yes.
Admittedly, disease CAN happen despite healthy living. Did you know that we have no clue what causes over 50% of breast cancer cases? No known risk factors…nuthin’.
Corporate & Social Responsibility
So prevention also needs to be action at a much higher level. It means manufacturers reducing employee and public exposure to chemicals and toxins that have already been linked to increased cancer rates. We don’t wait for “absolute proof” in other areas of our lives to guide our actions. Why do we need it when it comes to ceasing the shit that goes into food and land and air?
It would also help immensely for popular awareness campaigns to provide current, inclusive education about ALL risk factors. To roll prevention education, not just mammogram machines, into communities where health disparities are prominent and cancer mortality rates are higher. It means stressing for the Prevention over for the Cure in their messages. Because reducing disease is the goal, right? Not making money?
It means taking a long, hard holistic look at that WHY we don’t take better care of ourselves. What stops people from prevention? Mental health, income, location, time, resources….all connected to health. If we raised money to address those, would cancer rates drop? I believe so.
The biggest risk factor for all disease is being human. Disease will happen and there are simply some things we will never prevent. Examining this culture’s resistance to disease and death is another blog for another day.
My point here is there ARE certain illnesses, including some cases of breast cancer, that we can delay or prevent completely through individual and social action.
Prevention is not simply education. Prevention is serious health care.