Every three years ostomates worldwide, and their family and friends, come together to celebrate the resilience of the ostomy community. They help spread awareness on World Ostomy Day. This celebration falls on the first Saturday of October and corresponds with the yearly Ostomy Awareness Day in the United States.
World Ostomy Day was established in 1993 by Dr. Gerhard Englert, who sought to bring international attention to people living with stomas, with a hope to improve their quality of care and quality of life. At the time Dr. Englert was the President of the International Ostomy Association and went on to have a fund created in his honor through the European Ostomy Association. Each time the association assigns a motto to World Ostomy Day, the most recent being, “Ostomates’ Rights are Human Rights, any time and anywhere!”
In the United States, National Ostomy Awareness Day was founded by the United Ostomy Associations of America (UOAA). The slogan, “Ostomies are Lifesavers”, is the main focus of their awareness day campaign. The UOAA works year-round to provide support, education, and resources to ostomates, as well as advocating on their behalf.
Ostomy surgery is life-saving and life-changing. Many ostomates have experienced feeling shame, embarrassment, sadness, or fear. Their feelings are fueled by the stigma that can be attached to life with an ostomy and the assumption that you are somehow less then. This is the reason why ostomy awareness campaigns and days, which are focused on large-scale education, are so important. It can help every ostomate feel that their journey is valid and important, as well as teach the general public that these taboos can be harmful and detrimental.
Social media platforms will be filled with ostomates telling their stories and teaching the world about life-saving ostomies. You will see photos and essays on their hard-fought journeys, and how they are living amazing and fulfilling lives in partnership with their ostomy.
Whether you shout about your ostomy from the rooftops or quietly enjoy your life, your ostomy journey is up to you. There are ways for every type of person to become involved in ostomy awareness and advocacy, here are just a few:
Convince your state officials to acknowledge World Ostomy Day:
A proclamation is an official government document that recognizes a day of observance in a community. The hope is that this proclamation will widen the audience, and aid in the advancement of ostomy education and awareness.
Register for a 5k:
Share an educational infographic:
Infographics are a great way to share information about ostomies and ostomates quickly and easily on a variety of different platforms.
Add an ostomy awareness frame on social media profile pictures:
Download a frame to add to your social media profile or on your Facebook page hit “Edit” on your profile picture. Then tap “Add Frame” and search “ostomy awareness” to add it automatically. This is a great way to show solidarity throughout the community. It can even open up conversations with friends or family who may not be familiar with ostomies.
Ask your local media outlets to acknowledge the day:
Use the UOAA SAMPLE-LETTER-TO-THE-EDITOR-2021 (this needs to be linked to the included PDF if possible) template to write to your local newspaper or TV news and radio stations. This helps spread ostomy awareness and can reach those in need of support.