IT’S TIME TO GIVE YOUR BREAST CANCER AWARENESS PROGRAM A NATIONAL SPOTLIGHT


Though National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is just two weeks away, it's not too late for healthcare PR executives to join some of the innovative national programs that will help boost their organization's stature in the community. Whether it's breast cancer month or national kidney month (see chart), there there are many ways to join the cause, by either becoming a local sponsor of the national program, a beneficiary or both. Joining these nationwide events is a sure-fire way to promote public awareness of an certain issue. With Breast Cancer Awareness Month, millions of women take part in some type of event --from tennis championships to fashion shows. National Breast Cancer Awareness month, with its trademark pink ribbon, is dedicated to educating women about breast cancer and the importance of early detection of breast cancer, which will take the lives of about 46,000 women this year. The event was started by the American Cancer Society in the late '80s when the organization noticed a high rate of cancer among women. Being linked to a national health program can improve referrals rates and increase your patient-base because the spotlight is shined on your organization during the event. Usually, the national organization has its own PR department that issues press releases, advertisements and coordinates press releases, but by being affiliated with a program -- your organization's name will be added to most if not all of their programs. While each program is different, as a local partner you may be put on a list as a place women can go for mammograms, or as a place that provides free breast cancer screenings during the month. As a beneficiary, you are not as actively involved -- you basically are approved for a grant to support your breast cancer education and detection program and your organizations's name is added to the list of grantees on all the promotional items. Put On A New Face Hospitals that offer breast cancer screenings can apply for a tie-in with cosmetic company Avon Products Inc.'s [AVP] Breast Cancer Awareness Crusade. Since October 1993, the Crusade has served to educate women about breast health and to improve access to early detection services. Through sales of its Breast Cancer Awareness pink ribbon pin and a pen made of pink ribbon, the New York-based company's sales representatives have raised $16.5 million to fund more than 160 community breast cancer detection programs across the United States. Hospitals can either join as volunteers to sell the products or apply to receive grants from the program. Grants average about $10,000. Applicants must be private, non-government, not-for-profit organizations except for state university health clinics. The applicant must sponsor a program of education, early detection and post-diagnosis services for breast and cervical cancer. The company's "Take the Pledge" drive, which reached over 25 million women since last year, urges women to follow the three-step recommendations for early detection of breast cancer: annual mammograms (as appropriate for their age and family history); yearly clinical breast exams; and monthly breast self-examinations. "A commitment to this resolution by community groups is greatly needed," said Pat Sterling, program director of Avon's Breast Cancer Awareness Crusade. "The more local [breast cancer detection programs] we can get...the better." Launched as a massive grassroots educational campaign, Avon's "Take the Pledge" drive has attracted participation from organizations and associations including The American Association of Retired Persons and the Foundation for African-American Women. In addition, high-profile women, including former first lady Rosalynn Carter, Senators Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Mikulski and Olympia Snowe, and former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Antonia Novello, also have taken the Pledge. Last year, as part of the campaign, 18 national magazines featured advertisements that reached 72 million women. Avon's 440,000 sales representatives distributed 16 million educational flyers and 40 million sales brochures with the "Take the Pledge" message. E-mail pledges were sent to the Web page for Avon's Crusade (href="http://www.pmedia.com./avon.html). And during the month, women across the country also signed giant Pledge Walls in 67 malls as part of a program Avon established with the Simon Property Group. Pink Mink For the second consecutive year, the Fur Information Council of America (FICA) will donate a portion of its sales of mink ribbons and teddy bears to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, the country's largest private funder of breast cancer research. While the program already has a beneficiary, FICA, the country's largest fur retailing association, is looking for hospital co-sponsors that would be interested in selling the mink and rabbit bears and ribbons in their gift shops. "We really want to expand this program," said Stephanie Kenyon, FICA special events coordinator. "The more bears that are out, the more we can raise for the cause." The pink ribbon is the nationally recognized symbol of the fight against breast cancer and the importance of early detection. Unique in its fabrication, the FICA ribbon is made of mink and studded with faux pearl. The pink mink teddy bear is 7-1/2 inches high and decorated with a pink ribbon. $10 of each sale goes to breast cancer research. This year Maximilian Fur Salons, based in New York, and Bloomingdale's sold the ribbons. FICA officials said that the organization raised about $30,000 last year through the program and would like to double that amount this year. Parade of Shoes The Fashion Footwear Association of New York (FFANY) and QVC, a cable program selling products to the public, raised more than $1.4 million last year for breast cancer awareness and research by selling designer and brand-name shoes at half off the retail price. The program is looking for beneficiaries for this year's "QVC Presents FFANY Shoes on Sale," a three-hour live fashion shoe benefit held at the Plaza Hotel in New York. But the home shopping channel will do more than sell a lot of shoes and raise money. FFANY president Dick Jacobson noted that women last year across the country were educated on breast cancer. "The viewing reaches 50 million households across America and there were doctors talking to women explaining breast cancer and what can be done about it," said Jacobson. To promote the cause this year, many of the designers will be making appearances on the show and segments will feature information on the prevention or early detection of breast cancer. Proceeds went to the Strang-Cornell Breast Center and the Virginia Clinton Kelley Breast Cancer Research and Education Fund at the Arkansas Cancer Research Center.

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