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Dr. Orin Levine Headshot

You Think Blue Jeans For Pneumonia Is Ridiculous?

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Which do you think is more odd – professional football
players wearing pink gloves
, shoes, and pads or hedge funds and financial types wearing
blue jeans
to work on a Monday? 
Before you answer consider a few things: First, did you think that it
was odd to see NFL players in pink on Sunday?  Second, did you ask why they were wearing pink?  If you’re like me, the answer to both
is yes, and by now you’ll know that the pink was to highlight breast cancer awareness month.  Definitely, a successful attention
getter.

Pneumonia kills more children than any other illness and yet
hardly anyone talks about it.  To
make matters worse we have the tools to
prevent
most of those deaths but lack the political will to make their use
a priority.  In short, it’s a
disease desperately in need of attention. 
In an effort to kickstart the effort, Lance Laifer,
whose ideas have sparked terrific progress in awareness and action around
malaria, proposed that everyone wear blue jeans on World Pneumonia Day, November 2nd

His first calls have been to hedge funds on Wall Street
where wearing blue jeans on a work day would really be something unusual – as
unusual as Brett
Favre wearing pink shoes
.  With
any luck, the hedgies will provoke people to ask, “Why blue jeans today?” and this
in turn will provoke a discussion on pneumonia and what can be done about it.

Despite the success of the pink NFL campaign, Lance’s
successes with malaria, and the ease of a simple act to wear blue jeans ,
there’s been criticism of the  ‘blue
jeans’ pneumonia awareness idea. 
Reuters blogger Felix
Salmon was told by Lance that the
 link to the color blue was related to the bluish color that
kids get before they die of pneumonia. 
(For the medically inclined, this bluish coloring is called cyanosis and
it occurs when a child becomes hypoxic because of the oxygen depletion that
comes with pneumonia and the inability to breathe.)  Salmon’s criticism characterized the idea as somewhere
between “ineffectual” and “downright offensive”.

For my part, the rant should be against inaction, not those
striving for change.  If Salmon and
others want to be outraged I would urge them to direct it toward those in power
who have been standing by and watching while preventable, treatable deaths
continue to occur at the pace of one every 15 seconds.  So, why not put blue jeans on before
you go to work on November 2nd and find out whether it works for
pneumonia like it worked for breast cancer and the NFL? Maybe Salmon’s
criticism, should be that blue jeans aren’t blue enough….it is just possible
nobody will notice, just like a child lost every 15 seconds.