Saturday, July 4, 2009

Raising Awareness

I read this blog recently, about Raising Awareness. This is how we combat problems in America, we raise awareness. It's meant to be funny, but I keep coming back to it. That IS how we combat problems in America. Hence the magnetic yellow ribbons for your car (raising awareness about US soldiers) and pink Kitchenaid mixers (which will raise your awareness of breast cancer, somehow...). There is a whole industry of pink products for breast cancer, some of which are pretty snazzy. And red ones for HIV. But how does that red $50 t-shirt really DO anything about HIV? Tonight, will the wearer get drunk in a bar, pick up a cute girl, and, as he removes the shirt, think, hey, this red shirt reminds me, I need to put on a condom? I'm not sure. Perhaps one could argue the 50 cents the company donates to research for each product they sell helps, but it seems to me that if that's what you're after, it would be better to give the researchers the whole fifty bucks. 

A friend of mine went on vacation in San Diego last week. He commented on the intrusive number of warning signs. He noted that every bridge, even ones not that high off the ground, has suicide hotline information. As he described the plethora of warnings about how everything hurts your health, I though, it is no wonder we have so much anxiety. 

A few months ago, we cut off our cable. That's right, no TV for us (we do make exception for Netflix movies). And honestly, I think my overall anxiety level has decreased. I still listen to Morning Edition on the way to work every day -- I figure they will report on anything I really need to know. That, or I will hear about it at work or from friends. I have no TV and I still know that John and Kate are having some major problems, so I figure being TV-less is not leaving me too far out of the loop. 

On the other hand, I think it was Marshall McLuhan (certainly his predecessors) who argued that we are so bombarded by messages that we tune them out. 

All this takes me back to public health messaging. I can't even tell you how many pamphlets we have in our building. And posters. Booklets. Coloring books. All with different messages. Smoking kills. A glass of red wine per day may be good for you, but no more than that, you lush. Maintain a healthy weight (eat 5 fruits and vegetables every day). Wear mosquito repellent, sunscreen, a condom, a helmet, and your seat belt. Don't drink and drive and for gods sake cook your food to the appropriate temperature (and don't eat raw eggs).  

And yet. Despite all the messaging, I just cooked brownies. I ate a spoonful of batter and then licked the bowl clean. It was fabulous. I, who am bombarded with the messages daily, I, who have investigated a child with salmonella in his knee joint and a girl with shigella in her eye (it blinded her permanently), I still eat raw eggs on a pretty regular basis.

It makes me wonder how effective Raising Awareness is. 

1 comment:

  1. TOTALLY right there with you on the brownie batter! :) And I'm seriously considering axing the cable as well - not a thing on, so we end up watching PBS anyway...

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