Parthasarathy on the limitations of pink ribbon campaigns

October 22, 2014

“This month, we are inundated with pink,” writes Shobita Parthasarathy, for The Conversation, a news source newly launched in the U.S. to offer views from the academic and research community.

“By wearing pink ribbons, purchasing pink products, and participating in walks and other collective activities, citizens try to raise awareness of the scourge of breast cancer, with the eventual goal of curing the disease,” says Parthasarathy. “But almost three decades after October was established as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we need to ask ourselves: has all our pink paraphernalia really helped improve health?”

In “Awash in pink, but breast cancer awareness isn’t a cure,” Parthasarathy points out that while pink campaigns have generated awareness and research funding, “breast cancer rates have gone up right along with awareness.”

“Does that mean we should abandon such efforts? Absolutely not,” says Parthasarthy. “But in the fight against a particular disease, we need to understand that awareness efforts are only initial steps down a very long road. The time has come for us to think about other steps we need to take.”

Shobita Parthasarathy is an associate professor of public policy at the Ford School and was founding co-director of the University of Michigan's Science, Technology and Public Policy Program. She is the author of Building Genetic Medicine: Breast Cancer, Technology, and the Politics of Healthcare (MIT Press 2007).