True Advocacy

There was recently a segment on the Daily Show satirizing the explosion of pink breast cancer awareness products on the market today, with the latest being a pink oil drill bit and a $50,000 donation from a multibillion dollar oil company that releases chemicals directly responsible for breast cancer every single day. Similar to Lydia’s and Elizabeth’s posts on promoting awareness and being ready to partner with certain organizations, this made me think about the role of advocacy in promoting health programs and what true advocacy actually looks like. Is slapping a pink or white ribbon on a backpack, going to a run to support the cause, or celebrating an awareness day once a year truly advocacy?

It is obviously incredibly important to promote awareness of Safe Motherhood and maternal and child health initiatives, but maybe because it is still in the growing stages of promoting wider awareness, we could take a different approach to promoting awareness. We need to capitalize on commitment. Instead of handing out pins to put on backpacks and making Motherhood themed products or having awareness runs, maybe there should be letter writing days and campaigns to ask for political commitment and policy changes. A true advocate should also inform themselves so they can have educated conversations with people informing them about the issues and what they can do to help. True advocates can rally and require that leading organizations in maternal and child health such as UNICEF, USAID use awareness days to bring donors and shareholders together to assess the state of Safe Motherhood and create concrete plans for action.

Having a colored ribbon or a symbol for people to relate to and recognize can be important for gaining recognition for Safe Motherhood and maternal health, but for real change to be made we as true advocates must demand more. We talked in class that it is hard to get traction around this campaign because there is no one easy solution. This is true, but there are hundreds of inexpensive, empirically proven, and practical solutions that can and should be implemented now! Campaigns should be created that attach faces to stories of preventable deaths followed by the simple solution that could have saved a life. This will make the issue a reality for people and the mothers can become the rallying point to create a call for action.

2 thoughts on “True Advocacy

  1. I do agree that the pink ribbon campaign to provide advocacy and funding for breast cancer has gone quite a bit over the top in recent years. However, the pink ribbon does more than raise awareness, it provides additional funding for breast cancer research. Having a strong funding basis for research can help bring the scientific community closer to finding a better form of treatment.

    Having the white ribbon campaign for maternal health take off would do more than just raise awareness, it would provide the necessary funds to help address this issue across the globe. I’m not saying it should go as far as having a pink drill bit, but increasing the amount of funding could help establish necessary socioeconomic infrastructure and human capital needed to expand maternal care in resource-poor communities.

  2. I don’t have an answer to this problem, just a few thoughts.

    The problem is everything wants a ribbon now, so all the colors are claimed ten times over. We know the white ribbon as Safe Motherhood, but the first three things to come up with a google search of White Ribbon are A) A black-and-white, German-language drama film, B) A men’s group working to end men’s violence against women, C) the badge of The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union.

    I agree that educating persons is how it should go, but that’s very idyllic; your average American has an 8th grade reading level and no medical background, so asking the majority needed to not only parse the texts available but also care immensely is an almost impossible feat. The very key to advertising is simplicity and emotional resonance. Do people buy from Komen because they know anything about what’s going on with research? No; if they did, Komen wouldn’t get away with putting its slogan on fried chicken and alcohol. (It does, regardless of them being carcinogens; google “Buckets for the Cure”.) They buy because they’ve purchasing pink products makes them feel good about themselves, and they feel guilty if they don’t. That, and most everyone knows someone with breast cancer. These are advantages that Safe Motherhood doesn’t have.

    Yes, money feeds the soul of science. Of the funding the pink ribbon gets, only about 17% goes to research. Yes, there are administrative costs, but Komen lines a lot of pockets. Like anything else, it seems, it’s just a business. However, yes, that percent, though not big enough, is a lot considering how much is brought in. I do believe, however, there needs to be innovation on how to get Safe Motherhood money. Old advertising techniques and ribbons are no longer going to work.

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