Question of the Week

December 16, 2002,


We come into contact with people at school, at work, even at the grocery store and the mall. We know little about their lives, and we often do not want to know more than we do. We hear about the child in our school who has just won the battle against cancer, and the whole town is there to support this noble fight. We hear about the teen who was in a terrible car accident, and we breathe a sign of relief when we hear of the release from the hospital.
How often do we talk about the stories that never seem to have an ending?
How often do we consider those who survive every day as a part of life?

"Sickle cell anemia is a lifelong, inherited blood disease. People who have the disease usually receive the diagnosis as newborns. The disease causes red blood cells—to 'sickle'—to change from healthy and round to sickly and crescent-shaped. The disorder causes anemia and pain, among other problems.....There's no universal cure for sickle cell anemia, a fatal disease, although gene therapy may someday provide the answer."

"Asthma is one of the most common chronic diseases of childhood. An estimated 3.8 million children under 18 years old have had an asthma attack in the past 12 months, and many others have 'hidden' or undiagnosed asthma. Asthma is the most common cause of school absenteeism due to chronic disease."

"About 1 in a 1000 children have arthritis. Usually, it is a form of inflammatory arthritis known as juvenile idiopathic arthritis (formerly known as juvenile chronic arthritis). This is a separate condition from rheumatoid arthritis. In many cases the inflammation stops in late childhood, but about a third of children affected have problems which last into their adult life."

"Epilepsy is characterized by repeated seizures that may occur as often as several times a day, or as infrequently as once every few months. Normally, millions of tiny electrical charges pass between nerve cells in the brain and throughout the body to control the body's many functions. Epileptic seizures are caused by unusual and strong bursts of electrical energy in the brain. Nearly one-third of people newly diagnosed each year with epilepsy are children. Children are most prone to developing epilepsy in early childhood or at adolescence. However, epilepsy can develop at any age in children or adults."

Children (and adults) live everyday surviving chronic ailments too numerous to list here. So why is it that those who have overcome illnesses so frequently get the headlines? Who decides what is considered a "success story"? Do we only want to hear about it if we can see how the story ends?The media so often decides what we, as the general public, need to know (and we let them).

Question of the Week:
With no "prime-time success stories" to follow, how will the public learn about the chronic ailments that people survive every day? How can we educate ourselves about the diseases that don't make the front page, but do affect those with whom we share our lives? What responsibility do we have? How could this education help us as friends, family members, and neighbors?

Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.

I look forward to reading what you have to say.

Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum

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