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National Parkinson's Awareness Month: Why it Matters

April is designated National Parkinson's Awareness Month, highlighting a global concern - Parkinson's disease. This month is crucial for increasing knowledge, dispelling misinformation regarding symptoms, and understanding the challenges linked to this condition. 

The event also examines the impact on patients and caregivers. Through research, there are already potential treatments and, hopefully, a cure in the future. Read on to learn more.

Featured in: April - Awareness Months, Days & Observances.

History and Background National Parkinson's Awareness Month

elderly man smiling
Photo by Matteo Vistocco on Unsplash.

First recognized in 2010 by the U.S. Senate, under the guidance of Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, National Parkinson's Awareness Month has annually made its mark in April in honor of the birth month of James Parkinson, who first identified the neurodegenerative disorder two centuries ago.

This decision is largely due to the unwavering commitment of the Parkinson's Foundation, an organization merged from two foundations founded by Jeanne C. Levey and William Black. 

In 1957, both foundations were born from the determination of the founders to seek answers when people close to them were diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

Today, the event goes beyond the surface; not only is it used to raise awareness about Parkinson's disease (PD), but it is also a platform to ignite hope and empathy. 

The peak of the month-long celebration is World Parkinson’s Day, every April 11. The rest of the month has various activities, from seminars to fundraisers. For instance,  the "Parkinson's Champions" program encourages people to organize fundraising events or participate in endurance runs. 

Every year, there are also different themes to spotlight one facet of the cause. In 2023, it was #Take6ForPD, which mirrors the alarming statistic of PD diagnosis every 6 minutes.

Related Read: National Diabetes Month, Breast Cancer Awareness Month

The Cause and Its Challenges

old adult holding a walking cane
Photo by sabinevanerp on Pixabay.

Parkinson's disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that debilitates patients with tremors, muscle rigidity, and difficulties with movement and coordination. Researchers believe the cause is a mix of genetic and environmental factors. Although there is still no cure, various methods exist to manage symptoms, such as increasing dopamine levels and deep brain stimulation.

It affects a lot more people than you may think. There are around 90,000 new diagnoses annually in the US alone2, a 50% increase from the previous numbers. 

With a total estimate of one million Americans living with PD1, it became the second-most prevalent neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer's disease. Unfortunately, recent studies predict a climb to 1.2 million patients by 2030.

Beyond physical and psychological effects, Parkinson's extracts a heavy financial toll. Treating the disease and other indirect costs bleeds close to $52 billion each year from the U.S. economy. Patients face an overwhelming financial burden, shelling out an average of $2,500 annually on medications and up to $100,000 for therapeutic surgery.

Efforts and Initiatives

As the number of Parkinson's disease cases continues to surge in America, various organizations have taken up the mantle to advance research, patient care, and caregiver support.

The Parkinson's Foundation, for instance, is renowned for its commitment to improving patient care and advancing research toward a cure. Next, the American Parkinson's Disease Association is a grassroots advocacy organization with a similar focus.

After getting diagnosed with PD, actor Michael J. Fox built a foundation that commits millions of dollars annually to Parkinson's research. Due to the impact of the pandemic, in 2022, the foundation also took the helm of leading Parkinson's Alliance. This two-decade-old non-profit organization started the Parkinson’s Unity Walk.

Through the partnership of the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research and AbbVie, Partners in Parkinson’s connect the PD community globally, providing online educational resources to enhance knowledge and a support group.

How to Get Involved and Support the Cause

doing research
Photo by cottonbro studio on Pexels.

Recognizing National Parkinson's Awareness Month provides opportunities to join the battle against a disease that affects millions of people worldwide. Here are some ways to take part.

  1. Join the Parkinson's Unity Walk which happens annually, allowing individuals to show solidarity and raise funds for research.
  2. Engage with support groups, both online and offline, where you can share experiences and garner strength from the community.
  3. Educate yourself about the disease, its impact, treatment options, and advancements in medical research. Explore various Parkinson’s topics using the PD Library of Parkinson’s Foundation as a start. Click this link to check their books, fact sheets, and podcast episodes.
  4. Encourage someone you know with the illness to consult a PD specialist. Research shows consulting an expert leads to better outcomes for the patient.
  5. Donate to research organizations dedicated to finding a cure or better treatment methods for Parkinson's.
  6. Promote awareness by sharing your knowledge and learning on social media platforms, inviting more people to understand this disease. 

Conclusion

As we observe National Parkinson's Awareness Month, we collectively act against this neurodegenerative disease. We inch nearer to a cure with each progress made in awareness, education, research, and support. Most importantly, our efforts beyond April are vital. Let's uphold this momentum and never stop pursuing triumph over this illness.

National Parkinson's Awareness Month FAQS

1. What is National Parkinson's Awareness Month, and why does it matter?

April is Parkinson's Disease Awareness Month, which is all about raising general awareness of neurodegenerative diseases. This event helps millions of patients and their loved ones to learn more about the disease, what it does, and how to manage it.

2. What are the usual signs of Parkinson's disease?

People with Parkinson's experience a broad range of symptoms,  like tremors, stiffness, slow movement, balance problems, and difficulty with coordination. Others may also endure depression, sleep disturbances, and cognitive changes.

3. What does Parkinson's disease do to your daily life?

It can significantly impact a patient's way of living. It can affect their ability to walk, talk, and use their hands properly. Additionally, their mental health also takes a toll.

4. How can you help in National Parkinson's Awareness Month?

You can join local events, share info on social media, or give money to research groups studying Parkinson's.

1

Marras, C., Beck, J. C., Bower, J. H., Roberts, E. M., Ritz, B., Ross, G. W., Abbott, R. D., Savica, R., Van Den Eeden, S. K., Willis, A. W., & Tanner, C. M. (2018). Prevalence of Parkinson’s disease across North America. Npj Parkinson’s Disease, 4(1).

2

Willis, A. W., Roberts, E. M., Beck, J. C., Fiske, B., Ross, W., Savica, R., Van Den Eeden, S. K., Tanner, C. M., Marras, C., Alcalay, R. N., Schwarzschild, M. A., Racette, B. A., Chen, H., Church, T., Wilson, B., & Doria, J. M. (2022). Incidence of Parkinson disease in North America. Npj Parkinson’s Disease, 8(1).

Mike is a degree-qualified researcher and writer passionate about increasing global awareness about climate change and encouraging people to act collectively in resolving these issues.

Fact Checked By:
Isabela Sedano, BEng.

Photo by Jose Antonio Gallego Vázquez on Unsplash.
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