Reviews Press

Are ribbon campaigns making us loopy?

BMJ 2004; 328 doi: (Published 04 March 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;328:588
  1. Michael Fitzpatrick, general practitioner (
  1. London

    At the start of ovarian cancer awareness month, a general practitioner claims that disease awareness increases anxiety—and newspaper and magazine circulations—much more than it increases diagnosis

    “And finally, today is colorectal cancer awareness day so here's our health correspondent—wearing the campaign's distinctive melaena-coloured ribbon—to tell us about a new ‘do-it-yourself’ colonoscopy technique.”

    Perhaps not this week, but it can only be a matter of time before every day of the year is allocated to some disease or disorder and every news bulletin concludes with an awareness raising feature. But when does public enlightenment become morbid preoccupation? Are we in danger of becoming so obsessed with the threat of disease that our quality of life is diminished?

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    Powerful forces drive campaigns to increase public recognition of disease. Doctors seeking to raise the profile of their specialty or special interest sponsor voluntary organisations to attract funds and promote research. For politicians worried about their loss of influence and respect, health …

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