Too many awareness days can create a health daze

This is April, so my wife and I are thinking of planning meaningful get-togethers with friends to recognize Alcohol Awareness Month, Irritable Bowel Syndrome Awareness Month, National Autism Awareness Month, National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, National Donate Life Month, National Face Protection Month, National Minority Health Month, National Sarcoidosis Awareness Month, Occupational Therapy Month, Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, Sports Eye Safety Awareness Month, STD Awareness Month, Women's Eye Health and Safety Month, National Public Health Week, National Alcohol Screening Day, World Health Day, National Infant Immunization Week, Safe Kids Week, National Infertility Awareness Week and World Meningitis Day.

Yes, we figure that following the National Health Observances calendar would give us a far more substantial social life than what we have now -- inviting friends to our garage to eat sardines with mustard, even with shots of Jim Beam and a beer back to wash them down, is seldom emotionally or intellectually satisfying.

If all goes well this month, we'll have Dr. Dipak Desai, the most famous gastroenterologist in Las Vegas, as one of our guests at our Irritable Bowel Syndrome Awareness Month dinner. And we'll have enough goalie hockey masks for everyone to wear at our National Face Protection Month brunch.

The National Health Observance calendar has already changed my life for the better. And not just because July is always International Group B Strep Awareness Month. Without the referencing of the calendar by public relations or PR specialists, I wouldn't have half the work emails I get today.

How can I not appreciate their snappy notes that go like this one from last year: "Paul, did you know September is National Pediculosis Prevention Month/Head Lice Prevention Month? I can get you both a doctor and a mother who are trying to get lice out of her son's head for an uplifting story."

That email brought back fond memories of my boyhood, when my dear mother would say she'd snatch me bald-headed if I put my head on the movie theater seat and caught ringworm or lice.

Be that as it may, did you know there are only 175 National Health Observances each year? It's interesting that there are just three in December, no doubt because truth-seeking PR types have done a study that shows sickness and disease seldom strike during the holidays.

As you might expect, the calendar has a National School Backpack Awareness Day, which must be aimed at all the kindergartners who throw their backs out when they take dad's bowling ball to school for show and tell.

If my wife and I decide not to have get-togethers with friends to recognize National Health Observances, it may well be because we have come to the realization that it would take too much out of us, not because what the observances signify are unimportant.

In March, for example, how can you be emotionally invested in National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, National Endometriosis Awareness Month, National Nutrition Month, Save Your Vision Month, Trisomy Awareness Month, Workplace Eye Wellness Month, National Sleep Awareness week, National School Breakfast Week, World Kidney Day, National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, Brain Awareness Week, National Poison Prevention Week, National Native American HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, World Tuberculosis Day, National Tsunami Awareness Week and American Diabetes Alert Day and not end up needing a shrink by Mental Health Day in May?

Paul Harasim is the medical reporter for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. His column appears Mondays. Harasim can be reached at or 702-387-2908.