19 Nov 2012

Ribbon Decisions...

A great question came up today on The Linden Fund's Facebook page, which I have questioned as well, and I know many others have too.

Where did this purple ribbon for "prematurity awareness" pop up from all of a sudden? Where did the pink and blue concept go?  Why is one agency using purple and others pink and blue?  In case it's not obvious, we premature parents focus on the little things as soon as our little premature children hit the scene.  Little things matter.

If you look around the world at all the prematurity awareness agencies and campaigns-you will mostly see the colours pink and blue.  Then this year purple appeared in a wave as each country went into the dark hours of the night on November 17. Purple in Toronto, Purple in Niagara Falls, Purple in NYC, Purple in Disneyland! Purple throughout South America, Istanbul, Italy, Ireland, Australia...you name it, many chose to get in on the display of purple during the Global Alliance to Prevent Prematurity and Stillbirth Global Illumination Initiative. Did you know that's what it was called? Purple was present last year for World Prematurity Day as well, but on a much quieter level.

How is it possible the choice of purple swept over the world?  Excellent marketing management, I would say.  Strong outreach and communication across the world with other partners, such as those in the Global Alliance, working hard to decrease birth defects, preterm labour and delivery, and infant mortality. March of Dimes does this.  After what I would call a simple "re-brand", they started using the purple ribbon in recent years after many years using the pink and blue as their preference for birth defect and prematurity awareness.

If you look at the March of Dimes' website, the ribbon pin for sale is called "March of Dimes Awareness Pin," not the "prematurity awareness pin." <Click the link for a pic. March of Dimes focuses on the health and well-being of the mother during prenatal care, as well as the health of premature and term infants.  I'd say their purple ribbon encompasses the overall health and wellness of mothers and babies--not just based on prematurity alone.

Other prematurity support agencies use purple, green, pink or blue, or blue and gold in their own specifically designed Prematurity Awareness pins or materials.  I kind of like that many countries take on their own unique style and prefence when choosing their awareness pins.

As we are well aware, March of Dimes in the United States has a preference for purple.
Little Big Souls in Africa prefers purple for wrist bands and blue, gold and white for other awareness items.
European Foundation for the Care of Newborn Infants (EFCNI) likes purple.
National Premmie Foundation of Australia has gone with purple and green.
Irish Premature Babies uses pink, blue and white.

Now, I am writing from Canada...just outside Toronto.  On Saturday night I went down to Toronto to see our beautiful CN Tower lit up in purple.  In Canada there is no one, strong and well-funded formal organization that works with those impacted by preterm birth or the aftercare of preterm babies. We have The Linden Fund, which I refer to often (and I LOVE), but they are no March of Dimes or larger organization.  Sadly, I didn't hear a peep out of our media until after all of Toronto wondered why the CN Tower turned purple on Sunday night.  As I walked through downtown Toronto, I heard several people wonder aloud, "why is it purple tonight?" There was a little bit of news leading up to it, apparently, but not much. This fact is seriously disappointing to me.  In a country this size, with this many people and a serious need for population replacement, nobody seemed to know about the importance of Saturday, November 17--aka World Prematurity Day.

Then this month, leading up to World Prematurity Day 2012, a new organization arrived on the Canadian scene.  The Canadian Premature Babies Foundation.  The founder is also a mother of twins, born at 27 weeks.  I can only assume she also found it very hard to get the right type of support and guidance during her preterm experience with her multiples.  We do live in Canada, known for its amazing healthcare and universal benefits, but we lack in the area of prematurity awareness and support...according to me. Perhaps this is why we are undecided on colours for awareness purposes. We are thousdands of parents, working hard to find the answers, connect with the right people and best services we can find for our preterm infants and young children, which we often do alone.  Many preterm families are slipping through the cracks and I hope this new Foundation, in partnership with The Linden Fund and a Quebec organization called Prema-Quebec can build a stronger network for preterm families and those who provide lifesaving services to them (hospitals, medical staff, and additional support agencies.) 

Now back to the awareness ribbon that got me started on this topic...Perhaps once we build a stronger preterm network of parents and medical professionals, we can choose our awareness or cause colours...but in the meantime, I suggest pink and blue with two small purple butterflies on the lower ends of the ribbon.  Why butterflies and not baby footprints? The butterfly in many cultures across the world represents the "soul."  The butterfly was described as, "It’s connection with the soul is rather fitting. We are all on a long journey of the soul. On this journey we encounter endless turns, shifts, and conditions that cause us to morph into ever-finer beings. At our soul-journey’s end we are inevitably changed – not at all the same as when we started on the path."  This is a perfect description for how a mother and father are impacted right to the core--the soul--when they face the uncertainty of having a preterm infant, the ups and downs in a NICU, the baby's strength and ability to often pull through.  This is why I feel the butterfly belongs on a Canadian prematurity awareness ribbon. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi there. Thank you for your thoughtful comments. Yes, I agree with you, there really is a lack of awareness in this country about prematurity and what it means to families. This is why I've decided to start Canadian Premature Babies Foundation-Fondation pour Bébés Prématurés Canadiens. There needs to be more education and research in the area of prematurity, best care and practises and there needs to be a voice across the country.
    I work with PrémaQuébec. At the end of November there will be the first national consultative family meeting in Edmonton with families from across the country attending to discuss where the needs are.
    Contact me: katharina.staub@bluewin.ch