From walks to blood drives, a host of activities and efforts are marking this year’s National Sickle Cell Awareness Month, observed annually each September.
For its part, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, which has a Comprehensive Sickle Cell and Thalassemia Program, is reminding people of the importance of being tested for the sickle cell trait, which affects 1 in 13 African-American babies. Although the trait doesn’t usually cause illness, if both parents have it, there’s a 25 percent chance the couple’s child will be born with sickle cell disease (SCD).
Elsewhere, the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America is asking supporters, particularly those of African descent, to donate blood this month. The inherited disease affects red blood cells via an abnormal version of hemoglobin, the protein that carries oxygen throughout the body. The altered hemoglobin is known as hemoglobin S, or sickle hemoglobin, because it causes normally oval-shaped red blood cells to assume a sickle shape, often resulting in blood flow blockages. The disease occurs in about 1 in every 365 African-American births, and one in every 16,300 Hispanic-American births.
“This school year students battling sickle cell disease prepare to face challenges in the classroom unknown to their healthy peers,” the organization’s website states. “Many will fall behind in their coursework after missing weeks of school, require tutoring and special education services. But there is a way people can help ease the struggle of these serious diseases.”
The Sickle Cell Thalassemia Patients Network is hosting its Walk for Sickle Cell on Saturday, Sept. 14, in New York City’s Central Park; contact information is available on that page. The Hands of Hope – Sickle Cell Awareness Foundation recently presented its 6th Annual Sickle Cell Awareness Walk in Tampa, Florida, but supporters may still make donations. Through education, the organization seeks to keep the public aware of both the disease and the trait.
Also on Sept. 14, the Sickle Cell Association, Hampton Roads chapter, will host its 26th Annual Walk for Sickle Cell at the William Price Stadium at Norfolk State University in Norfolk, Virginia. This year’s theme is “We Are Stronger Together — Advocate, Educate.” The goal is to raise $25,000. In addition, Gulf Winds Track Club and the Sickle Cell Disease Foundation will present the 38th Run/Walk for Sickle Cell Anemia on Sept. 14 at the Jake Gaithersburg Gym in Tallahassee, Florida.
On Sept. 21, the Howard University Center for Sickle Cell Disease, along with Faces of Our Children, will present the “Stomp Out Sickle Cell Move-On Event,” a family-friendly occasion to be held at the Howard University Hospital Plaza. Complete with games, prizes and other activities, the event is aimed at heightening disease awareness while raising funds for patient support. Wayne A.I. Frederick, Howard’s president and an SCD patient, will participate.
Held in September in observance of Sickle Cell Awareness Month, the Sickle Cell Disease Therapeutics Conference was recently presented in Washington, D.C. Participants discussed the latest advancements in SCD, as well as treatment trends. Attendees heard from healthcare providers, patients, key opinion leaders, legislators and others.
Visit the Sickle Cell Consortium for updates on the month’s activities and events.