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Raising Awareness of a Subtle but Devastating Disease

By Tom Watson on September 23, 2008No Comment

Because calendar months and colors have been claimed by one health issue after another, it can be easy to lose track of causes.  September is national Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, in recognition of the leading cause of death among gynecologic cancers in the U.S, and a number of groups – from the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund (OCRF) to L’Oreal Paris to various Hearst women’s magazines are making it their business to spread awareness about this deadly disease.  

The numbers are dramatic. This year, nearly 22,000 American women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and over 15,000 women will die from it, according to the American Cancer Society.  Eighty percent of cases have already spread beyond the ovaries by the time they are diagnosed.  As a result, less than half of patients survive longer than five years (by contrast, 89% of women diagnosed with breast cancer survive at least five years).

The largest independent organization involved in combating ovarian cancer is the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund.  It has awarded over $23 million in grants to more than one hundred men and women investigating the disease.  The fund was established in 1994 by Sol Schreiber in memory of his wife, Ann.  The Fund’s former president, the late Liz Tilberis, was also the editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar until she succumbed to the disease at age 51. Thankfully, many of her contacts in the fashion, beauty, and entertainment industries took on the cause, giving it some prominence.  Their efforts can be seen in many cause-related marketing initiatives taking place this month.

Some of the OCRF’s major corporate partners, including cosmetics giant L’Oreal Paris, appliance brand Electrolux, and Loehmann’s department stores are running special promotions to raise awareness and money for the nonprofit’s research efforts.  L’Oreal is selling its annual Color of Hope cosmetics and sterling silver Hope Necklace, and will donate $5 from each product sold to the OCRF.  Electrolux, which committed $500,000 over two years to the OCRF, is launching a premium laundry collection. The turquoise washer and dryer are promoted by TV personality Kelly Ripa, who also designed a special edition t-shirt whose proceeds will go to the OCRF.  Loehmann’s is holding a benefit shopping event on September 25 in which customers can purchase a $5 shopping coupon to receive discounts in the department store.  In turn, the company will donate 5% of purchases made with the coupons to the OCRF.
 
Beyond selling its makeup and jewelry, L’Oreal has created a website that provides information on ovarian cancer and a link to the OCRF’s website for those who want to learn more or donate directly to the Fund.  With a goal of having the website receive 22,000 hits this month, L’Oreal hopes to reach as many people as the estimated number of those who will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer by the end of the year.  The company also collaborated with Hearst Magazines; L’Oreal’s celebrity spokesmodels Kerry Washington and Eva Longoria Parker partnered with the editors of Marie Claire, Redbook, Harper’s Bazaar, Town and Country, and Good Housekeeping to create public service awareness messages that empower and give hope through their respective magazines.  Eva Longoria Parker explains, “We’re working to prove that knowledge is beautiful.”
 
While cynics can question the impact of cause marketing and the agenda behind corporate social responsibility efforts, awareness is an effective and proven strategy in the early detection of diseases such as ovarian cancer.  And since females make up the majority of consumer decision makers, those companies that cater to women are the best place to start in spreading knowledge of the disease and its symptoms.  To learn more, please visit the American Cancer Society’s  Detailed Guide on Ovarian Cancer.

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