A National Health Observance (NHO) is a specific day, week or month that is dedicated to the promotion of a particular health issue. NHOs are sponsored by professional associations, federal government agencies, research centers and non-profit organizations.
NHO’s provide opportunities for public health and medical professionals, consumer groups and others to educate the public about specific health concerns, such as cancer prevention or organ donation. Sponsoring organizations typically provide information and organize campaigns and events designed to raise awareness of a health issue.
What is the history of national observances?
We do not know when the practice of promoting national observances began or the date of the first national health awareness. You may wish to search the printed United States Statutes at Large, which has published every public and private law, concurrent resolutions, proclamations by the Presidents, and so forth, passed by Congress since 1845. Alternately, you may wish to contact the Office of the Federal Register, National Archives and Records Administration, which prepares and publishes the current Statues at Large.
When was the first NHO Calendar published?
The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion began compiling health observance dates and publishing them in 1982.
What is the process for declaring a national health observance?
The National Health Information Center encourages organizations to contact their state or congressional representatives for help with declaring a national health observance.
Are there selection guidelines for the calendar?
The general criteria for including a health observance event in the calendar are:
- The event must be recognized nationally. It must be sponsored by a national organization or recognized by the U.S. Congress, the White House, or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
- The organization sponsoring the health observance must be a U.S. Government agency, professional association, or national nonprofit organization able to provide proof of state or Federal registration. The organization should have the ability to respond to public inquiries by phone as well as email, fax and/or mail, and provide services nationally such as conferences, research funding, and/or patient and public information.
- There should be materials for public health program planners associated with the event, either on the Internet or in print, and contact information for obtaining them.
- There should be public education information associated with the event.
- The event must be prevention-related and cannot promote an industry or profession.
We ask that organizations submitting health observances also submit proof of national status for the event, usually an official declaration or proclamation, when requesting that a health awareness event be added to the NHO calendar. To view examples of official proclamations, visit the White House proclamation page.
How can an organization submit an awareness event that meets the calendar selection guidelines?
If your organization would like to have a national health observance added to the calendar, please provide us with the date of the health awareness event, your organization’s complete contact information, including e-mail and applicable website address for the observance. Also indicate if your organization has materials available for distribution to the public in your request. Requests can be sent by:
- Fax: (301) 984-4256
- E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or
- Postal mail: NHIC, P.O. Box 1133, Washington, DC 20013-1133
How many health observances can an organization sponsor each year?
There is no limit to the number of health observances that an organization can submit for the calendar.
How are specific dates for the health observances decided?
The organization or group of organizations sponsoring each event picks the name of the observance and sets the date.
Do the dates for the observances change yearly?
The monthly health observances usually remain the same each year. Dates for the awareness days and weeks may change from year to year.
How can employers/employees incorporate NHO’s in workplace wellness campaigns?
Employee wellness programs can use NHO’s to organize workplace campaigns and events. For example, on the third Thursday of November, the American Cancer Society’s annual Great American Smokeout offers help and support for smokers to break their unhealthy habits. If you are interested in planning activities focused on creating a smoke-free workplace, the American Cancer Society has a number of promotional ideas and resource materials available for you.
In March, the American Dietetic Association sponsors National Nutrition Month. Many workplace wellness programs honor National Nutrition Month by supplying their cafeterias and vending machines with healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products.
If you are interested in implementing a wellness program at your workplace and need some creative ideas, please visit the websites for the Wellness Council of America and Employee Wellness Programs.
How do NHOs influence legislation?
The NHO’s have influenced legislation on the federal, state and local levels. One example is Alcohol Awareness Month.
Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard of California sponsored the Support 21 Act of 2009 (HR 1028) which authorizes a media campaign to educate the public about underage drinking laws and to advocate for their enforcement. This act also grants funds for training health care professionals to screen adolescent patients who are at-risk of alcohol abuse.
In 2007, February’s National Women’s Healthy Heart Campaign inspired the Heart Disease Education, Analysis and Research, and Treatment for Women Act (S. 573, H.R. 1014). The aim of this bipartisan federal legislation, sponsored by Representative Lois Capps, was to improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disease in women.
A third example of an NHO’s influence on legislation is the May observance of National Bike Month. Since 1956, the League of American Bicyclists has celebrated National Bike Month. Fifty years later, Congressman Earl Blumenauer of Oregon authored House Concurrent Resolution 145 to support America’s 57 million cyclists, 5 million of whom commute by bicycle to work. This 2006 legislation further aimed to educate the public about bike safety, as well as the health and environmental benefits of cycling.
For other examples of legislation related to the National Health Observances, please visit the following websites:
When will the next edition of the calendar be available?
Next year’s calendar is typically posted on healthfinder.gov the first full week of January.
Subscribe to the healthfinder.gov Monthly Spotlight to learn more about National Health Observances and new features on the healthfinder.gov website.
Please note that neither the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion nor the Department of Health and Human Services has any role in naming national health observances. Nor do we sanction, approve, qualify, or validate observances.