National Palliative Care Week (NPCW) starts this Sunday on 22 May 2022. Health awareness days or weeks offer an opportunity for the community to be connected around an issue and to build awareness and support for those living with health conditions. When thinking about the meaning and value of health awareness days I was interested to see if there had been any assessment of the value of these awareness days. And, of course, I found a recent systematic review on this topic. This review concluded that while
online activity seemed to generally increase during the awareness days, weeks, and months studied, the relationship between this increase and improved health behaviors and outcomes remains unclear. 
An earlier study had suggested we should use health awareness days or weeks to improve population health by creating a social responsibility to promote healthy contexts . So, what does this mean for palliative care?
Now in its 27th year, NPCW is organised by Palliative Care Australia (PCA) and supported by the Australian Government Department of Health. It is Australia’s largest annual awareness-raising initiative held to increase understanding of the many benefits of palliative care. The theme for National Palliative Care Week 2022 is It’s your right. The theme seeks to raise awareness about the rights of all Australians to access high-quality palliative care when and where they need it. The campaign is also challenging a community perception that palliative care is a synonym for end-of-life care. PCA wants the community to know it is so much more than that. Anyone with a life-limiting illness has the right to live as well as possible, for as long as possible.
These are important issues and in need of community and policy discussion. All of us will come to the end of our life. Dying occurs across the life course and across the community and across our health and social systems. It is a universal human experience. Australia is dealing with end-of-life issues in many different contexts at this moment. COVID-19, our ageing population, Voluntary Assisted Dying, compassionate communities, and diversity and equity perspectives are all challenging how we shape our society and our systems to support care for people coming to the end of their life. Palliative care needs to be central to these discussions.
So NPCW 2022 provides a window for us to not only build awareness within the community but to encourage us all to take social responsibility. We can start by acknowledging people in our neighborhood or workplace who have palliative care needs, who are caring for someone who is terminally ill, or who are bereaved and grieving. We can make sure people are aware of palliative care as part of their healthcare rights. We can remind health professionals of the benefits of early referral to address care needs. We can join discussions about how best we shape our health and aged care systems to meet the needs of Australians coming to the end of life and the needs of Australians who are providing care or grieving. During NPCW 2022, we each have the opportunity to not only become more aware personally but to build a more socially responsible community.
- Vernon E, Gottesman Z, Warren R. The value of health awareness days, weeks and months: A systematic review. Soc Sci Med. 2021 Jan;268:113553. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2020.113553
- Purtle J, Roman LA. Health awareness days: sufficient evidence to support the craze? Am J Public Health. 2015 Jun;105(6):1061-5. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2015.302621.