A Guide to Awareness Proclamations: What Are They and Why Do They Matter?

Let’s talk awareness proclamations. It’s likely fair to say that most of us have seen an awareness proclamation announcement by a city, state, or even country for something. Awareness proclamations can be for almost anything but tend to range on topics anywhere from culture to medical or mental health.

Such proclamations are official announcements to bring the community’s attention to an important topic that a group of people want to bring awareness to and officially recognize.

A proclamation is another tool to allow affected individuals to feel recognized. But what else does a proclamation do, and how is one made?

It may seem simple enough, but a lot goes into a proclamation. Even though one may think any proclamation highlighting important topics would be approved, unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

Writing an awareness proclamation: getting started

There is a specific wording format utilized for any proclamation. It is a “legalese” type of wording, the same wording that one sees in a proposed or approved bill and law. While one can contact their government officials requesting support in drafting a proclamation, I’ve found if one has a proclamation already created and ready to be submitted for approval, it’s more likely to be approved and approved quickly.

Contact local officials

One doesn’t have to have a proclamation ready to request one, though. Contacting local officials to start the process a few months before the requested observance is the first step – whether or not one has a proclamation prepared.

Emailing a local official to request support for a proclamation is the first step, and a proclamation can then be drafted, essentially together, if one doesn’t have a proclamation already written to use. 

Include local statistics and events

It’s helpful to include not only local statistics in your request for support but also the local events and activities surrounding the awareness topic.

Review previously approved proclamations

When writing a proclamation, reviewing other previously approved proclamations to follow the wording style can be helpful. Proclamations tend to include statistical information about the topic that highlights the need for a proclamation with the intent that it will resonate with the community – how prevalent is the issue being highlighted, which groups are most affected, what is the trend of the prevalence over the last decade, etc.

Contacting your local officials

Proclamations can be requested at all levels of government – from city to county, from tribal to state, and even countrywide. Some city and state government websites have a proclamation request form for direct submission. If a proclamation form is unavailable, look for email addresses on the government website for contacting officials. 

Utilizing an available proclamation request form on a website is one option that has worked most of the time for me – but not always. It can be helpful to contact state officials to request state support so that it can be brought to the floor to gather additional support for the governor to sign. I used this technique when requesting a proclamation for Ostomy Awareness Day this year and with the Cherokee Nation, which I am a citizen of. In both instances, the officials asked for a written proclamation to submit for discussion and support.

Following up on your proclamation request

You can submit a proclamation request earlier than a few months before the requested observance date. Typically, a minimum of 30 days is required to consider and approve the proclamation, but it is best to allow more than 30 days.

I also recommend following up on the status of a proclamation request by email and, at times, even by phone. This year, 2023, follow-up was required and missed by me and colleagues for Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP) Awareness Week in Oklahoma and Michigan.

Our governors had approved and signed this proclamation without issue in prior years. However, we both failed on our ends to follow up this year. Michigan couldn’t approve the proclamation in time for the designed awareness week, and I’m not sure why Oklahoma did not approve the proclamation. In both cases, though, we should have communicated more with our local officials earlier.

Receiving the signed proclamation

When a proclamation is approved, the requestor is contacted by the approval office and invited to obtain the signed proclamation in person or have it mailed. Picking it up in person allows for photo opportunities of the signing and the proclamation itself with local officials that you can then use in publicizing the proclamation.

A colleague of mine chooses the in-person option and connects officials with real people that the proclamation affects, making it more personal for officials. His photos include the local officials presenting the proclamation to him. He can share the photos across social media platforms, highlighting the awareness topic.

Publicizing proclamations makes a difference

Publicizing proclamations allows other government levels and organizations to begin recognizing the observance.

Among Michigan, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin, Wisconsin was the only state to recognize FAP Week in 2023. But members of the FAP community have been publicizing the awareness week for years, and this led to the Collaborative Group of the Americas on Inherited Colorectal Cancer recognizing it in 2023 as well! It was mind-blowing, absolutely incredible, when I saw that!

Proclamations and publicity make a difference! You can see an example of a proclamation template I have used in the past.

Have you been part of an awareness proclamation for your rare disease? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.

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