Every year, state governors and city mayors have the opportunity to issue proclamations promoting public awareness of various health conditions.  Awareness proclamations are important tools for gaining recognition and credibility for the various disease communities.  Ultimately, these proclamations are a means of raising our voices in the fight for better treatments and cures, and they are relatively simple to request.

Most states and cities now have official online websites with guidelines and instructions for submitting proclamation requests, and many have online forms for ease of submission.  Begin by visiting these sites and doing a search for “proclamations” in the tabs and in the site search bar.  If this does not give you the necessary information, go to the site’s contact page and e-mail the governor/mayor your request directly or give the offices a call and inquire about the steps in the formal submission process. Some states and cities allow awareness months, while others allow only weeks or even just a single day.  Submission time-frames also vary, but most proclamation requests must be made well in advance of the desired event date, as many states require a 4-6 week processing time. It should also be noted that you must be a resident of the state in which you are submitting, although that requirement is occasionally waived at the city level.

Almost always, states and cities will require you submit your proclamation request in “whereas” clause form, generally requiring 4-6 such statements.  This is not nearly as intimidating as it might first appear and is really simply a means of standardization.  Any awareness goal or disease fact can easily be turned into a “whereas” statement.  It might help to write down 4-6 main points you wish to emphasize about your illness and your awareness goals to make it easier to transform them into these types of clauses.  (Below, we have included a sample proclamation, complete with “whereas” clauses, for your review.)

In addition, numerous states and cities require a “purpose statement,” indicating what you hope to convey with your proclamation, so it is useful to summarize your topic in a short statement before trying to complete the forms.  This statement of purpose does not usually appear in the proclamation document itself but is frequently required on the submission form.  The following is an example of the Indiana Gastroparesis Awareness Week purpose statement: “To promote awareness of gastroparesis (stomach paralysis), a debilitating disorder characterized by severe pain, nausea, and vomiting, which affects an estimated 5 million Americans, and can lead to malnourishment, dehydration, extreme weight loss, esophageal damage, and other such complications.”

Beyond these requirements, some states and cities might request sources citing the factual statements you have included in your proclamation or request additional details about your illness.  Others require an organization or nonprofit submit on your behalf or that a department within the state or city government sponsor and submit the proclamation request to the governor or mayor.  You will find that some accept your wording exactly as suggested and others wish to heavily edit.  Some states and cities offer official in-person signing ceremonies (if you so desire) while others offer only e-mail or hard copies sent via postal service.  In any case, most states and municipalities are willing to work with you throughout the process to help you achieve your goals.

Once you have submitted your request, be prepared to wait.  Some states and cities will acknowledge your submission immediately and some will not; all will require some sort of waiting/processing period before granting approval.  It is a good practice to contact the governor’s or mayor’s office occasionally to check the document’s progress.  These offices should be able to tell you where the document is in the process – whether your request has been accepted, is in editing, has been mailed, and so forth.  Submitting your request well before any deadlines will help ensure that if there are issues, you will have time to correct them and/or resubmit your request.

So, what can you do with a state-level awareness proclamation once it has been granted? Well, this is limited only by the bounds of your imagination and creativity, but here are some suggestions:

*Contact local media and ask them to announce your awareness day/week/month and/or request they cover a local awareness event you are hosting (if applicable)

* Contact local businesses and request they sponsor an ad or fundraising campaign/event. Perhaps they could simply display the proclamation in their establishment to help spread awareness

*Send a copy to your state and national representatives and ask them to consider other measures (such as congressional bills) which would be beneficial to your illness community

*If you have the funds, take out an ad in the local newspaper displaying your proclamation

*Contact local elementary, middle, and high schools or colleges to request a speaking engagement. Some schools welcome speakers (especially parents) who can educate their students in areas previously unaddressed

*Approach your local hospitals and medical clinics about sponsoring an educational event or fundraiser to coincide with your awareness month/week/day. Perhaps staff could assist in arranging a support group meeting or present information about your disease to their physicians as part of their continuing education goals

Remember, this is yet another tool for raising public awareness of your illness and reaching your advocacy goals.  Take that step forward with confidence!

By Melissa Adams VanHouten,
AGMD Public Policy and Outreach Director