Dylan Manderlink

April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month, and if you've been looking for a time to take action to help #EndParkinsons, this would be a particularly great month to start.  Awareness months are important for many reasons, but mainly because they can reinvigorate the efforts of concerned and caring people who may be looking for an opportunity to get involved in a cause.  Although my family and loved ones have never been personally affected by or diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, I’m an advocate for awareness, community support, and compassion surrounding those who live with the disease or know people who do.  

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For many of us whose lives may not be impacted by the issues and causes that awareness months highlight, it’s imperative for us to still care about the what’s being addressed, show compassion towards others, raise our voices in support of the month’s cause, and educate ourselves and others about pressing issues.  So, if this awareness month has meaning to you and those around you, I would encourage you to take the time to research, assist, inform, and help as much as you can.

Where to start?

Get started with your advocacy, education, and awareness efforts by visiting the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation website and navigating to the #EndParkinsons toolkit, which contains reliable, focused, and updated information.  This toolkit makes educating yourself and others, and initiating activist efforts, more accessible and digestible.  Many people still think activism and advocacy are not for everyone, but I would challenge that notion because I think part of the problem with our society is that there aren’t enough people involved in pressing issues.  Activism, advocacy, and educating the public on national and global concerns, injustices, diseases, and public safety issues is for everyone.  So start by accessing the Parkinson’s Awareness Foundation’s toolkit—and remember, if you or someone you know haven’t been affected by Parkinson’s, start by learning first.

Next steps

The Parkinson’s Disease Foundation emphasizes how important it is to ensure that all people with Parkinson’s have access to the latest and most accurate information.  To support these educational and informational efforts, the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation (PDF) suggests you do three things:

Connect with your local library:  

As the PDF website expresses it, ‘Each year, libraries around the U.S show their support of Parkinson’s awareness.  After all, public libraries are designed to bring communities the best information.  Let’s use that to our advantage to help others learn more about Parkinson’s.'  PDF recommends four easy and accessible ways to get involved with your local library and elevate a much-needed conversation surrounding Parkinson’s Disease: create an informative Parkinson’s display, plan a Parkinson’s book fair where a local expert could speak as a guest, link up with pre-existing library events/groups, and get involved with local health-related committees.

Make sure that Parkinson’s Disease is a part of health fairs and community events:  

Create a Parkinson’s display at a pre-existing health-themed event, organize a public educational event, or start a support group for affected community members to attend.

Partner with professionals or experts in a related field:  

Share your story with professionals and let them know about PDF’s resources, help professionals educate their patients (and refer patients to PDF’s national HelpLine), and partner with professionals to educate the public (include educational materials like the Parkinson’s Quilt).

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For awareness months to create meaningful change, advocacy and activist efforts must be sustainable

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Sustaining your support

Remember that in order for your advocacy, activism, support, and efforts to be effective, helpful, and meaningful, they should be sustainable and forward-thinking.  Awareness months are effective in many ways—they start a necessary and purposeful conversation surrounding an issue, injustice, or cause that impacts many, act as an accessible platform for people to learn about an issue, and provide a starting point to get involved.  For awareness months to create meaningful change and not just ‘spark’ it, advocacy and activist efforts must be sustainable.  

If you host an event at your local library, make sure you set a tentative date for your next one or create more frequent programming, with that first event merely serving as the launchpad.  If you connect with applicable professionals, keep in contact with them past the month of April and check in with them to ensure their support.  If you have a display about Parkinson’s at a local health fair, make sure you connect with the event hosts, ask when their next fair will be, and book a table or spot in advance.  If you launch an effective and engaging social media campaign, don’t confine it to just one month; make sure you are involving people via the web throughout the year and gearing up for the big campaign in April.

Change is most impactful, valuable, and meaningful when it’s ongoing.  Living with Parkinson’s Disease is a reality for one million people in the U.S., and it affects them beyond the month of April—so make sure your efforts, assistance, and education last more than 30 days, too.  Raise awareness of the disease in a personal, relevant, and consensual way, educate yourself and others, and create a community conversation.  You never know how far your efforts could go.  For more information on how you can lend a hand, visit the Parkinson's website.

 

Comments (1)

  1. Meagan Hooper

Sustainability and forward-thinking is absolutely the key for long-term impact. Great post as usual Dylan!

 

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