Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Local organization hopes to use Sickle Cell Awareness Month to educate on “forgotten disease”

A certain virus may have had the spotlight for the past six months, but for Joseph Robinson, September is all about another disease—one he thinks is often forgotten.

Next month is national Sickle Cell Awareness Month, meaning that the South Central PA Sickle Cell Council will have special programming.

“For us, it provides a focal point and a way to raise awareness,” said Robinson, the organization’s executive director.

Throughout the weeks in September, the council will host seminars on Facebook Live with hopes to educate the public on the disease.

According to the CDC, sickle cell disease is an inherited red blood cell disorder that can cause severe pain, infection and stroke.

The Sickle Cell Council provides support to adults and youth with the disease and works to raise awareness.

“The more people we can get to know about it, the more people we can get to support our cause,” Robinson said.

Robinson said that the national theme for Sickle Cell Month this year is “Sickle Cell Matters”—a play-off of “Black Lives Matter.”

Sickle cell disproportionately affects African Americans. About one in 13 Black babies is born with the sickle cell trait and one in 365 is born with the disease, according to the CDC.

However, Robinson said people of any race or ethnicity can have the disease.

Robinson expects the increased awareness of health inequities that the COVID-19 crisis has brought will inspire people to learn more about sickle cell disease. He also thinks that the recent Black Lives Matter protests have made people more concerned about social issues.

“Everyone’s antennas have been raised a little bit,” Robinson said.

For a week in September the state Capitol entrance and the Harvey Taylor Bridge will be lit red in honor of the month, Robinson said.

The first Facebook Live seminar will be on Sept. 10. Robinson said that it will offer an overview on what sickle cell disease is. The second will be on pain management, the third on nutrition and fitness and the last on the sickle cell education across the state.

“When you know better, you do better,” Robinson said.

For more information on the South Central PA Sickle Cell Council, visit To watch their Sickle Cell Awareness Month seminars, visit their Facebook page.

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