How Health Movements Build Awareness for Social Good

By James White, VP Engagement and Experience

As a 20+ year veteran in advertising, it’s no easy feat to show attribution between awareness, engagement and action – whether in the act of purchase, donation or advocacy. But something as simple as hair is capable of cutting through the BS, sparking a conversation, and creating a dialogue that’s become a bastion of hope for many deadly diseases.

Too often people are falsely confident about their health history or outcomes. Men, in particular, are hesitant to undergo predictive or preventive measures that are not commonly talked about- like taking a DNA test or getting an annual check up – to identify baseline biomarkers or health indications.  As a result, fathers, partners, brothers and friends are experiencing health crises, some even life-threatening. 

In the last decade, there has been a rise in consumer products and services that have brought more attention to the health challenges men face. For Hims, a San Francisco-based personal care brand for men, highlights previously-taboo issues men face – like erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation and hair loss – and empowers men to feel comfortable about seeking treatment. The brand has been able to tap into the male psyche of anonymity + awareness = action. And this is not the only successful model.

For Hims Home page

Global Mo-vements for the Greater Good of Men

Another empowering health movement has broken barriers for men’s health challenges by reintroducing the power of hair. Gentlemen, that normally are clean shaven are taking great pride to grow, groom and coiffure their moustaches and beards. This phenomenon has created a global “mo-vement” of hairy men and brave associates worldwide striving to encourage hair growth in return for conversation and action. 

Movember is an annual event that invites participants to grow their moustaches during the month of November to raise awareness about men’s health issues, such as anxiety, prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and men’s suicide. Similarly, No-Shave November invites participants to forgo shaving and grooming beyond their moustaches to evoke conversation and raise cancer awareness. 

According to the US, 1 in 9 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in the US. Research studies and papers have shown that threshold changes in PSA levels can help identify early onset prostate cancer and lead to interventions and treatments. And events like Movember and No-Shave have brought public awareness to these facts and figures.

The LunaPBC team participating in No-Shave November 2019.
Top row: Genevieve Lopez, Mike Fenessey, Kevin Brennan, James White, Alex Leonidova.
Bottom row: Tommy Rodriguez, Sanjay John, David Latuno.

How Action Leads To Cure

The success of Movember goes beyond evoking important conversation and building awareness. The health movement has funded more than 1,250 men’s health projects across more than 20 countries. It’s funded the research and medical studies that have discovered the genetic “fingerprint” within men’s prostate cancer cells which will help build a more tailored treatment plan and eliminate over-treatment and side effects.

Another example is a San Diego non-profit, Padres Pedal, a community of cancer fighters, including survivors, families, children, doctors and researchers, who participate in a one-day cycling, running, and stationary bike event to raise funds for local cancer research. This year almost 3,000 people, including me and the LunaDNA team, are participating and have collectively raised ~$2M dollars to help fight for a world without cancer.

Infographic Source: Padres Pedal

In just six years, Padres Pedal the Cause has donated more than $10 million dollars to fund collaborative discovery research at the best cancer institutions in San Diego. Scientists at Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego Health, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego, and Sanford-Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute have initiated 48 translational cancer research projects and 5 clinical trials for all types of cancers, including pancreatic, breast, brain, pediatric, skin, lung, colorectal, gastrointestinal, ovarian, and endometrial.

If you cannot actively participate in the event, you can also donate to those who are, like me and the LunaDNA team, riding countless miles on Saturday, November 16.

Community Leads to Cure

Nonprofit organizations were founded on the goals of providing resources and emotional support, and raising awareness of a particular disease to the general public. Many quickly evolved into activism, lobbying, and research funding. The next evolution is having a direct impact in medical research through education on precision medicine, research funding, and recruiting for clinical trials.

Earlier this year, LunaDNA announced a partnership with the Genetic Alliance. By linking the participant and patient communities of the Genetic Alliance to LunaDNA’s research platform, individuals will have more resources to share their health data for medical research and to understand their options for clinical trials.

Industry-advocacy partnerships will continue to evolve, but it may not be from necessity, but from a shared mission.

“[They] say that finding people for clinical trials is like looking for a needle in the haystack,” Terry describes. “But basically, no, it’s not. The haystack is made out of needles.

“In this case, every single one of us is useful to a clinical trial somewhere. My goal and the goal of LunaDNA is to bring as many people as possible into the system, and then they’re ready for a clinical trial.” – Sharon Terry, CEO, Genetic Alliance