A quick Google News search this morning using the term "pneumonia" brought up a bunch of stories. Most of them were about Canadian folk singer Bruce Cockburn, and the fact that his bout with pneumonia has forced him to cancel his upcoming tour in the Canadian Maritimes. Nowhere was there mention of the fact that pneumonia is the single greatest infectious threat to the lives of children in developing countries.
Now, don't get me wrong - I am a Bruce Cockburn fan. He is a gifted singer, songwriter and performer, and it is truly unfortunate that he's had to cancel his tour. But the fact that this is considered top pneumonia news - when a child dies every 20 seconds from this disease, and it gets almost no news coverage - is a tragedy.
Instead of bemoaning the injustice, I started thinking: How can we turn this reality to our advantage? How can celebrities - particularly those that have been touched by pneumonia - become engaged in the fight against this disease?
Just a few weeks ago I wrote in this blog about five ways each of us can take action as part of World Pneumonia Day, which will take place November 12. Now, I'd like to issue a special call to celebrities. Here are 5 simple ways you can help:
- Take a photo of yourself wearing blue jeans and holding up a World Pneumonia Day sign, then email your photo to us and we'll post it on the World Pneumonia Day website.
- Autograph your World Pneumonia Day sign and send it to us, and we'll auction it and use the proceeds to get antibiotics and immunizations to last-mile communities in developing countries.
- Tweet about your support for World Pneumonia Day (and if you take the steps above, send your supporters to our website to bid on your autographed sign).
- If you're feeling particularly inspired, do what you do best and create a gift for World Pneumonia Day from your special talents: Music, fashion, art, film, or others.
- On or before World Pneumonia Day, call your local radio station to get on air, let folks know about World Pneumonia Day, share a few facts and encourage people to take action.
Whether you're a local newscaster or an NFL quarterback, the lead in a local band or playing Madison Square Garden, or a reality TV vixen or a Cineplex villain...you can help. If your life or the life of a loved one has been touched by pneumonia - or if you are simply touched by the fact that millions of children's lives can be saved with interventions that cost less than a dollar, you can help us spread the word and encourage action to prevent this disease.
Since the start of the World Pneumonia Day campaign in 2009, a variety of stars including Hugh Laurie, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Carson Kressley have lent their voices to this important cause. And Bono has been an outspoken advocate for vaccines against the leading childhood diseases through his powerhouse organization ONE. Just think of the power that James Brown, Patrick Swayze or Bernie Mac could have had in speaking out about pneumonia, had they not been felled, at least in part, by the disease. And think of all the young talent that the world may never know, unless we work together to take action.
We hope you will join us by lending your celebrity to this fight. If you're interested in taking part, please feel free to email me. Together, we can make a difference in wiping out a preventable killer and giving millions a shot at life.
Follow Dr. Orin Levine on Twitter: www.twitter.com/orinlevine