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Am J Public Health. 2015 Jun;105(6):1061-5. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2015.302621. Epub 2015 Apr 16.

Health awareness days: sufficient evidence to support the craze?

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Jonathan Purtle is with the Department of Health Management & Policy, Drexel University School of Public Health, Philadelphia, PA. Leah A. Roman is with Roman Public Health Consulting LLC, Philadelphia.


Health awareness initiatives are a ubiquitous intervention strategy. Nearly 200 health awareness days, weeks, and months are on the US National Health Observances calendar, and more than 145 awareness day bills have been introduced in Congress since 2005. We contend that health awareness days are not held to appropriate scrutiny given the scale at which they have been embraced and are misaligned with research on the social determinants of health and the tenets of ecological models of health promotion. We examined health awareness days from a critical public health perspective and offer empirically supported recommendations to advance the intervention strategy. If left unchecked, health awareness days may do little more than reinforce ideologies of individual responsibility and the false notion that adverse health outcomes are simply the product of misinformed behaviors.

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