Light Up the World! Raising Awareness for World Autism Day

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Today, April 2, is World Autism Awareness Day which was first adopted by the United Nations in 2007. The day shines a light on autism spectrum disorders and the importance of early diagnosis and intervention.

Autism is a developmental disorder of the brain functions, which makes it difficult to understand and process information. It also greatly affects an individual’s ability to partake in ordinary social interactions. Most symptoms of autism begin to emerge between the ages of two and three.

Although there is no cure for autism, Autism Europe indicates the best treatment is to educate the community about the disorder to create an environment particularly suited for the individual’s needs. Autism has many different characteristics which make each person with autism and the treatment he or she receives unique.

In order to bring attention to World Autism Awareness Day, autism organizations worldwide such as Autism Europe and Autism Speaks are participating in Light It Up Blue. Landmarks on every continent (except Antarctica) are lit up blue to raise awareness for the disorder. Some of the buildings being lit up are the Empire State Building, the Sydney Opera House, the Hungarian Parliament Building, and the Paris Stock Exchange. The Light It Up Blue campaign is also taking place on a smaller scale as individual homes, schools, and offices are being illuminated with blue lights today.

The UN will also be taking part in World Autism Awareness Day. Check out their video. The UN Postal Administration will be launching a series of eight stamps illustrated by people with autism to raise awareness for the cause.

So on World Autism Awareness Day, be on the lookout for blue lights and help illuminate your community with knowledge about autism.

Europe and the World Take Tobacco Seriously

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An excerpt from Dr. Margaret Chan’s keynote address at the World Conference on Tobacco or Health Conference

Last week was the 15th World Conference on Tobacco or Health 2012 (WCTOH) which was held in Singapore. The conference is the premiere international conference on tobacco control and works to create a world free from the negative effects of tobacco.

According to the WHO, tobacco is the world’s number one preventable killer. It kills nearly six million people each year, including up to 600,000 who die of second-hand smoke. The death toll is estimated to rise up to 8 million by 2030 unless serious action is taken.

At the WCTOH conference, strategies were discussed to counteract the worldwide smoking epidemic, such as regional smoking bans/restrictions. In her keynote address at the conference, Dr. Margaret Chan, the Director-General of the WHO, discussed the tactics used by Big Tobacco companies to try to undermine the anti-smoking efforts of certain nations, such as Uruguay, Australia, Norway, and Turkey. The tobacco company giants attempt to scare off anti-smoking movements by threatening to take legal action or pushing for government-industry committees to screen all policies regarding tobacco usage. Dr. Chan urged the world to remain steadfast to the anti-smoking movement and to attempt to sway public opinion to recognize the dangers of tobacco.

Earlier in March, the European Commission (EC) heightened its own effort to minimize tobacco consumption. The European Public Health Alliance reports that the EC adopted a new set of health warnings that will appear on cigarette packages. Some of the themes decided upon were related to cancer, the effects smoking can have on family members, and potential life threatening conditions.

The EU has also unveiled its “Ex-smokers are unstoppable” campaign which relies not on information illustrating the dangers of smoking, but instead focuses on the benefits of quitting.

The global tobacco crisis will be difficult to overcome, but the world continues to debate how to most effectively deal with the harsh realities of the product. Despite its challenges, the goal to minimize and eventually eliminate the consumption of tobacco products is one that will inevitably save countless lives.


Celebrate Purple Day

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Today is Purple Day, a day meant to draw international attention to the truths about epilepsy. The idea for Purple Day was conceived by an eight year old Canadian girl named Cassidy Megan in 2008 after she had been diagnosed with the condition. With the assistance of the Anita Kaufmann Foundation and the Epilepsy Association of Nova Scotia, the day was launched in 2009.

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that affects people of all ages. The WHO estimates that 50 million people worldwide, or approximately 1 in every 100, are affected by epilepsy. The disorder is characterized by reoccurring seizures, which can differ in severity and symptoms depending on where in the brain the electrical disturbance begins. There is currently no cure for epilepsy, but the surgical removal of the portion of the brain where the person’s seizures start has the potential to eliminate seizure activity. Additionally, medication can help people with epilepsy control their seizures. There is also the possibility that children can outgrow epilepsy or that adults can have a spontaneous remission.

Epilepsy is one of the oldest recognizable health conditions and has a history of being misunderstood by society. Historically there has been a stigma associated with the disorder that caused fear and discrimination toward those affected by epilepsy. Such treatment of people with the condition still exists in parts of the world, and can make daily life even more difficult. Purple Day is an excellent way to educate the public about the facts of epilepsy so that people affected by it can be treated with understanding rather than avoidance.

Due to the fact that epilepsy is an international concern, the WHO, the International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE) and the International Bureau for Epilepsy (IBE) are carrying out a campaign to provide better information and raise awareness about epilepsy, while strengthening public and private efforts to improve care and reduce the disorder’s impact.

To celebrate Purple Day, the Purple Day organization is encouraging people to wear purple today to raise awareness and spread the message about epilepsy. Additionally, people all over the world are having fundraising events such as parties, dance-a-thons, concerts, galas, and bake sales- all with a purple theme. Political representatives are also getting involved by making public proclamations about the day to raise awareness of epilepsy. In the UK, there will be a Big Ben Epilepsy Climb, where twelve people with epilepsy will be allowed to climb the clock tower, something that used to be restricted for people with the disorder. In Italy, staff members at the Scientific Institute Stella Maris in Pisa will be wearing lavender ribbons and delivering purple packages to children in the epilepsy unit.

Spread the word about epilepsy today and make sure to wear purple to show your support!


World Tuberculosis Day- Bringing Attention to a Global Problem

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Saturday, March 24th is the thirtieth World Tuberculosis Day sponsored by the World Health Organization to bring awareness to the deadly disease. Although the number of new cases in the WHO European Region fell 2.6 percent from 2009 to 2010, tuberculosis still remains the second leading killer of adults in the world among infectious diseases.

Tuberculosis is caused by strains of mycobacteria. It primarily attacks the lungs, but can infect other parts of the body as well. The disease is spread when those who are infected cough or sneeze, releasing their saliva into the air. Tuberculosis can lie dormant in a person for years before he or she shows symptoms, making it difficult to diagnose.

Multidrug- (MDR-TB) and Extensively Drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) have become increasingly problematic as well. These strains of tuberculosis resist the standard methods of treatment for the disease. Individuals that have either MDR-TB or XDR-TB must undergo a minimum treatment program of 18 months. Despite optimal treatment, the death rate for such extreme strains of tuberculosis is very high. The WHO Europe created a Consolidated Action Plan to contain the spread of M/XDR-TB by improving access to prevention, diagnosis and treatment services throughout the Region by 2015.

The WHO and the Stop TB Partnership also emphasizes the need for better detection of tuberculosis in children (birth to 15 years.) Oftentimes tuberculosis is not diagnosed in young people because they lack access to health services or because health workers lack experience in pinpointing symptoms of the disease in this age range. The WHO’s three primary actions to preventing TB deaths in children are to test children living with those who have tuberculosis and treat them if infected, provide preventative treatment for those who are at risk, and train health workers in checking patients for TB at all ages.

The theme for the 2012 World Tuberculosis Day is “I Want Zero TB Deaths in my Lifetime.” For this year’s campaign, the Stop TB Partnership is asking people to make an individual commitment to ending TB in his or her lifetime. People all over the world are writing what they want to see accomplished in their lifetimes and are making their own posters and videos to share with others.

So on this World Tuberculosis Day, spread the word about this dangerous disease. Education about tuberculosis leads to earlier detection, allowing for more immediate treatment, which in turn saves lives.

Celebrate one extra chromosome – World Down Syndrome Day

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Watch the video to learn more about 68 countries, promoting the inclusion of people with Down syndrome.

Today is the 7th World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD) and this year for the first time it will be officially guarded by the United Nations. But what is Down syndrome? It is a genetic defect, causing a person to have an extra copy of one chromosome. Three different types of Down syndrome exist:  regular trisomy 21, translocation and mosaic. The genetic defect changes the balance of the body and affects physical and intellectual features.
On this day worldwide people who have Down syndrome and the people in their lives are celebrated. Events and activities are organized to raise awareness of what it means to live with Down syndrome and to educate people.

Here are some beautiful examples:
In Kosovo the World Down Syndrome event already took place on 16th of March 2012. Activists organized a solidarity march to raise awareness, to educate and to show citizens that people with the syndrome are ready to be fully integrated as equal members of society. At the end of the march, in front of the National Theatre of Kosova, balloons were released that were held by participants throughout the walk. In South Africa the Upside Down syndrome support group for parents will be holding a family picnic. In the UK a young boy called Logan will make and decorated over 100 cakes for his school, to celebrate the day, all cake toppers are made of the WDSD logo.

On the 21st of March World Down Syndrome International will announce awards for volunteers, scientists and professionals for outstanding performances. Candidates can be individuals or groups, who have been nominated by any member or member organisation.


Let’s celebrate the World Down Syndrome Day together!