SCDAA Launches ‘Believe it!’ Awareness Campaign

Forma Therapeutics joins effort that focuses on patient perspective

Teresa Carvalho, MS avatar

by Teresa Carvalho, MS |

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The Sickle Cell Disease Association of America (SCDAA), in collaboration with Forma Therapeutics, is launching a campaign to raise awareness and boost knowledge about sickle cell disease (SCD).

The campaign, called “Believe it!”, will be promoted on television and radio channels, encouraging people to go through the website where they can find a video and additional information about SCD and SCDAA.

“Our goal in championing this project is to educate the general public on the experience of this disease by putting the patient perspective front and center, and by doing so, build support for those who live with SCD every day,” Ifeyinwa Osunkwo, MD, said in a press release. Osunkwo is senior vice president and chief patient officer at Forma Therapeutics,

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SCD is caused by the production of an abnormal version of hemoglobin — the protein that carries oxygen in red blood cells. Normally, these cells are round-shaped and easily circulate inside blood vessels. However, in the presence of dysfunctional hemoglobin, the cells take on a sickle-like shape.

This abnormal shape makes red blood cells more susceptible to stick to each other and block blood flow, mainly in small blood vessels, causing pain crises that may lead to organ damage. Other SCD symptoms include anemia, swelling of the extremities, persistent infections, slow growth, and eye issues.

The condition disproportionately affects Black and Hispanic people. When young patients shift to adult healthcare, they feel disease shame and face several challenges, including racism and limited access to care when they need it most, according to the the campaign website.

The “Believe it!” campaign seeks to influence people to imagine what it would be like to feel the pain SCD patients experience in their daily lives. It also intends to raise awareness about the condition among the general public, encourage discussion, and generate ideas.

The campaign also aims to support patients by providing trusted educational information, such as inspirational videos, resources to help them with medical insurance issues, and more.

Public service annoucements

The initiative involves both TV and radio public service announcements (PSA) across the U.S.

“After people watch this PSA, we hope that they will better understand and empathize when someone with sickle cell shares about their pain — that they will believe it!,” Osunkwo said.

“This incredibly powerful PSA brings the experience of living with SCD to life and makes it extraordinarily real for the viewers. As I watched it, I felt that pain — both the excruciating physical pain, as well as the pain of living with a disease that others cannot see and often do not understand,” said Regina Hartfield, SCDAA’s president and CEO.

The campaign project was developed free of charge by the production company Fela and the health agency Anderson DDB Health & Lifestyle, with Forma Therapeutics also providing some funding.

“As soon as I learned about this PSA, I felt compelled to be a part of a project that would shine a light on SCD and be a voice for the people who are impacted by this devastating diagnosis,” said LeSean Harris, Fela’s director.

“The SCDAA and I are extremely grateful for the expert creative direction that LeSean Harris and his colleagues at Fela brought to this critically important project. His vision has created an eye-opening experience that will challenge what people know about SCD and inform them in a profound way, which they wouldn’t experience unless they are an SCD caregiver or a warrior themselves,” Hartfield added.