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Swallowing Awareness Day in Australia & the United Kingdom

Swallowing Awareness Day 2016 infographic

“If we can raise the level of awareness as we did in 2016, I am hugely excited to see what we can achieve next year with a bigger, broader, more inclusive event!”

May 11, 2016, marked Swallowing Awareness Day in a number of locations throughout Australia and the United Kingdom to draw attention to swallowing disorders.

What is Dysphagia?

Known as dysphagia, swallowing disorders affect a person’s ability to safely swallow drinks, food, and medication. It can lead to life threatening medical problems such as pneumonia, choking, poor nutrition, and dehydration if not managed properly. Swallowing problems can occur at any stage of life.

Despite this, knowledge of dysphagia and its implications remain largely unknown.

How Swallowing Awareness Day Began

For this reason, Speech Pathology Australia and the East Sussex Healthcare Trust NHS in the United Kingdom decided to draw attention to the challenges faced by people with dysphagia by holding an inaugural Swallowing Awareness Day.

Modeled on a similar campaign undertaken by Speech-Language & Audiology Canada, the latest awareness campaign highlights the simple fact that speech pathologists are the professionals that can assist individuals with dysphagia.

Swallowing Awareness Day 2016

In Australia, the theme for this year’s public awareness campaign was, “Swallowing! Everyone’s doing it, but no one’s talking about it!” They used Dizzy the Pelican as its mascot to help promote the issues related to swallowing and dysphagia.

In East Sussex, the theme was, “You can have your cake… but can you eat it?”

The drives in Australia and East Sussex were supported by traditional media campaigns—issues of swallowing disorders were discussed in newspapers, radio, and television. The campaign also had a very strong social media campaign with around 5,000 people viewing tweets sent in the United Kingdom and the hashtag #900swallows, used by Speech Pathology Australia, trending during the afternoon of May 11.

There is no doubt that there is a need for more awareness of dysphagia and swallowing difficulties—similar campaigns are planned again for 2017.

Anita Smith, who coordinated the campaign in East Sussex summed up everyone’s feelings about the campaign, “I was so impressed by the support and commitment I received from speech language therapists around the United Kingdom that turned my little idea into the hugely successful event within such a tight timeframe. If we can raise the level of awareness as we did this year I am hugely excited to see what we can achieve next year with a bigger, broader, more inclusive event!”

For a full version of the infographic, click here.