Awareness Months November Awareness Socially Sparked!

November Ignites Awareness for Diabetes, Giving Tuesday +

November ignites awareness for Diabetes, Giving Tuesday, Health, Writing and more. We give thanks this month on Thanksgiving Day and Giving Tuesday, but November is also host to many more wonderful awareness observances in the health, arts and social arenas.

Health observances include National Diabetes Awareness Month and No-Shave November. Social issue initiatives include Adaption Awareness Month and Native American Heritage Month. And, in the Arts arena, November sparks a spotlight on National Novel Writing Month. Show your love; support your cause and be an Agent of Change!

november ignites awarenessNATIONAL DIABETES MONTH is observed every November so individuals, health care professionals, organizations, and communities across the country can bring attention to diabetes and its impact on millions of Americans.

This year, the National Diabetes Education Program theme is: Managing Diabetes – It’s Not Easy, But It’s Worth It. This theme highlights the importance of managing diabetes to prevent diabetes-related health problems such as heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, vision loss, and amputation. The theme also serves as a reminder to people who may be struggling with the demands of managing diabetes that they are not alone.

More than 30 million people in the United States have diabetes, but 1 out of 4 of them don’t know they have it.

– There are three main types of diabetes:  type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes (diabetes while pregnant, which can put the pregnancy and baby at risk and lead to type 2 diabetes later).

WORLD DIABETES DAY – November 14th. World Diabetes Day (WDD) is celebrated annually on November 14. Led by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), World Diabetes Day was created in 1991 by IDF and the World Health Organization (WHO) in response to growing concerns about the escalating health threat posed by diabetes. World Diabetes Day became an official United Nations Day in 2006.

The theme for WDD 2017 is Women and Diabetes. The campaign will promote the importance of affordable and equitable access for all women at risk for or living with diabetes to the essential diabetes medicines and technologies, self-management education and information they require to achieve optimal diabetes outcomes and strengthen their capacity to prevent type 2 diabetes.

There are currently over 199 million women living with diabetes and this total is projected to increase to 313 million by 2040. Gender roles and power dynamics influence vulnerability to diabetes, affect access to health services and health seeking behavior for women, and amplify the impact of diabetes on women. — International Diabetes Federation


november ignites awarenessNO-SHAVE NOVEMBER. Every November, this web-based nonprofit organization hosts a month-long campaign, where participants skip shaving and grooming for the entire month in order to stimulate conversation and raise cancer awareness and funds for prevention, research and education.

The goal of No-Shave November is to grow awareness by embracing your hair — which many cancer patients lose — and letting it grow wild and free. The money usually spent on grooming can then be donated to the cause.

If you don’t want to be hairy for the month, you can still show your love for this worthy cause by supporting a friend who is partaking.

november ignites awareness
Image Courtesy of National Novel Writing Month

NATIONAL NOVEL WRITING MONTH (NaNoWriMo) – One of my favorite observances. Held every November since 1999, this nonprofit sparks the creative writing gene in us all — empowering and encouraging vibrant creativity around the world.

On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30. Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought about writing a novel.


november ignites awarenessNATIVE AMERICAN HERITAGE MONTH  Also referred to as American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month. The month is a time to celebrate rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories and to acknowledge the important contributions of Native people. Heritage Month also aims to educate the general public about tribes, to raise awareness about the unique challenges Native people have faced both historically and in the present, and the ways in which tribal citizens have worked to conquer these challenges.

Founded in 1944, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) is the oldest, largest, and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization serving the broad interests of tribal governments and communities.


november ignites awarenessGIVING TUESDAY. November 28th.  Now in its sixth year, this awareness initiative is celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving (in the U.S.) and the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving. Since its inaugural year in 2012, #GivingTuesday has become a movement that celebrates and supports giving and philanthropy with events throughout the year and a growing catalog of resources.

november ignites awarenessNovember is a very giving time of the year. We have lots to give thanks for and what better time than during the annual Thanksgiving holiday. So many causes, observances and creative challenges this month. — Abbe is Socially Sparked™ Tweet @sosparkednews & @asparks01

January Awareness

January is Cervical Cancer Month


Cervical Health Awareness Month is January
Cervical Health Awareness Month is January


This January is Cervical Cancer Month. There are lots of ways to show support. Here are a few links to get you started.

National Cervical Cancer Coaltion








The National Cervical Cancer Coalition (NCCC) is ASHA’s program to help women, family members and caregivers cope effectively with the personal issues related to cervical cancer and HPV. ASHA and NCCC advocate for cervical health in all women by promoting prevention through education about early vaccination, Pap testing and HPV testing when recommended.


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Get Appy This Winter Season

Appy Holidays!

ABBE’s SPARKS Weekly Blog for RFPalooza

The holidays are a time to help others. The best promotions do the same. As I write today’s blog entry from frozen Chicago where the high is 18 degrees, I can’t help but crave warmth via a burning fire, or hot soup and Chai Tea to fend off a guaranteed cold or illness. Enter a brilliant promotional partnership that uses technology to address my very same craving with a clever helpful offer to boost existing users frequency and attain new users.
Here is one of the best examples of using technology and partnering for a seasonal promotional campaign:

This holiday season, Uber launched an uber-clever promotion.

Uber and Vaccine Finder : The ridesharing service pilot program called UBER HEALTH offered a one-day promotion in select cities to help existing and potential new users from getting the flu this season.

The Promotion — UberHEALTH offered free flu prevention packs and flu shots On Demand. Together with Vaccine Finder, they offered to help consumers stay healthy this season.


Technology to the rescue.


Uber users could request this service within their Uber app. When the Uber car arrives (complete with a registered nurse aboard), users receive a flu prevention pack and have the option to request  flu shots from the nurse for up to 10 people – all at no cost.

Slogan: Stay healthy and Uber on!

The winter season and holidays can be stressful for everyone, particularly your clients. Promoting their brands for a successful and profitable winter doesn’t have to be difficult. The caveat for informed, health-minded consumers — brands can’t just do social good; they have to be good.

With a little extra effort, you can see big results that will let you end the year on a high and healthy note. Have a wonderful Wednesday.


    By Abbe Sparks

    Abbe Silverberg Sparks is the principal of Abbe Sparks Media Group (, a boutique communications firm specializing in media relations, cause and social media marketing, branding and special events planning.


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Brain Injury New Study Out

Study Details How Brain Injury from Concussions Progresses

By , Time, Health & Family  Dec. 04, 2012

The lasting impact that concussions can have on the brain is on the minds of anyone involved in football, from parents of the youngest Pop Warner players to those in the professional ranks.

More and more players in the NFL are succumbing to symptoms of memory loss, inability to concentrate and changes in personality that they attribute to repeated blows to the head during play. But as their numbers grow, researchers are struggling to keep up with understanding the brain injuries that concussions can cause. Now, for the first time, scientists are classifying the brain injury from head trauma into four distinct stages.

(MORE: NFL Players May Be More Vulnerable to Alzheimer’s Disease)

Most agree that repeated mild trauma to the brain in the form of concussions can result in chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), or a gradual buildup of a brain protein called tau. Just as with Alzheimer’s patients, where accumulation of plaques and tau tangles can space out healthy brain tissue and let nerve connections wither away, damage caused by concussions can trigger the accumulation of tau in CTE cases, eventually forming deposits large enough to interfere with key functions such as learning, planning and organization.

In the latest study, published in the journal Brain, scientists led by Dr. Ann McKee studied the brains of 68 deceased patients with CTE in order to find patterns in the way the disease develops. McKee, a professor of neurology and pathology at VA Boston Healthcare System and Boston University School of Medicine, spent more than two decades researching Alzheimer’s disease. She decided to apply the same order in staging brains that she had become accustomed to in her Alzheimer’s work. The number of CTE brains she and her team studied is the largest to date, and allowed them to see patterns in the way the disease progressed. The patients included football players, hockey players, boxers and veterans (many of whom were athletes) and one who engaged in self-inflicted head-banging behavior.

(MORE: Why Leather Football Helmets Could Provide a Better Defense Against Concussion)

In order to generate the least biased analysis possible, McKee and her pathology team conducted the autopsy analysis of the brain tissue, while another group led by Robert Stern, a neurologist and neurosurgeon at Boston University School of Medicine, carried out detailed interviews with the deceased patients’ families about the patients’ lives, behaviors and symptoms.

In her first pass at the data, McKee was able to discern a distinct pattern of where and how CTE progressed. She and her team found focal points where the injury to the brain seemed to start. These were concentrated in the frontal lobe, deep in the valleys of the convoluted cerebral cortex. Cortex tissue resembles a crumbled piece of paper with folds that create peaks and valleys, and the lesions of CTE seemed to start in the valleys where small blood vessels also congregate. “There is a fairly stereotyped lesion; where the gray matter dives in to create a valley in the brain is where we see the greatest damage,” says McKee. “We also see over and over in all of these cases that there is a strong tendency of the disease to start around blood vessels, which means the blood vessel is damaged with the injury.”

(MORE: The Problem with Football: How to Make It Safer)

While it’s not clear what triggers the damage, McKee suspects that the junction of the elastic blood vessels butting up against the more gelatinous cortex tissue may be particularly vulnerable to the shearing forces from an impact.

Once the damage is done, however, it’s difficult to stop. Even after the physical blows no longer occur, a destructive chain of events is already in motion. From these seed points in the frontal lobes, damage to nerves and brain tissue radiates to other parts of the brain, until it eventually engulfs most of the organ, impairing many cognitive functions. “Even if a person doesn’t get additional trauma, the disease progresses, like a lit fire,” says McKee. “The fire takes hold and continues to affect the brain with more lesions the longer the person lives.”

(VIDEO: Game Changer: Kevin Guskiewicz, Impact Investigator)

Because the study included the brains of patients who died at a range of ages, between 17 and 98, McKee could see the growing buildup of tau in the brain among the older cases. She could also see distinct stages of the disease, from lesser signs of lesions and tau to greater depositions. She could then correlate later stages of damage to longer play for the football players, and therefore likely more concussions.

While the findings confirm, and perhaps even reinforce how damaging concussions can be, McKee says they could also lead to better treatments for CTE. For one, recognizing that the disease begins with small lesions in the blood vessels could lead to helmets or other equipment that better protect the most vulnerable parts of the brain.

(VIDEO: This Is Your Brain on Football)

In addition, it could help scientists develop higher-resolution brain scans to detect these early signs of the disease. Current technology is not able to find such small abnormalities, but researchers are testing a tracer that could detect the tiniest deposits of tau protein that would alert doctors to the potential for CTE. Patients could then be warned to avoid repeated head trauma like those that might occur on the football field.

Understanding that the damage occurs in the blood vessels could also lead to ways of protecting those vessels and preventing the damage from spreading to the rest of the brain. It’s not clear yet what is causing the initial lesions to seed damage to other parts of the brain, but if the damage causes leakage of agents that are toxic to nerve cells, for example, drugs or other interventions may block the added injury these lesions can cause.

(MORE: Study: Kids Competing Too Soon After Concussions)

The insights from CTE could also help researchers develop better treatments for other neurodegenerative conditions as well. “I’m optimistic that this disease gives us lots of insights into other diseases like Alzheimer’s,” says McKee. “If we could reduce tau somehow or wall off the early stages of the disease, we can prevent the degenerative part from developing.” Avoiding head trauma may not always be possible, but stopping the damage it can cause may one day be more realistic.

 Originally posted by By , Staff Writer at Time, in Health & Family Dec. 04, 2012

Read more:


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Brilliant Litigation Attorney Stricken with Parkinson’s Disease Turns Professional Artistic Photojournalist with Debut of His Photos at Chicago’s Mars Gallery Thursday, June 7, 2012

Brilliant Litigation Attorney Stricken with Parkinson’s Disease Turns Professional Artistic Photojournalist with Debut of His Photos at Chicago’s Mars Gallery Thursday, June 7, 2012

Portion of art proceeds to benefit The Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorder Program at Rush University Medical Center as a thank you o the doctors for giving Bradley his life back

June 7, 2012 – CHICAGO -– Brilliant litigation attorney Bradley Weiss, stricken with Parkinson’s Disease at the height of his Washington, DC career working with the Department of Justice, FBI and more, and as Of Counsel at Chicago’s prestigious law firm, Miner, BarnHill & Galland, turns professional artistic photojournalist with the debut of his photo series Montezuma Nights at Chicago’s Mars Gallery, opening Thursday evening June 7, 2012, 1139 W. Fulton Market.  Curated by renownedcurator and photographer Susan Aurinko. Opening night reception is being sponsored by a collaboration of the many different connections in Bradley’s life including his former Chicago law firm  Miner, Barnhill & Galland and Highland Park restaurant 2nd Street Bistro with live music by The Side Cars.  Thanks to a risky surgery called DBS (deep brain stimulation last December) Bradley’s Parkinson’s has slowed down and according to him, he is almost back to his old self!  To honor the Rush University Medical Center doctors who gave Bradley his life back, a portion of art proceeds opening night will benefit The Parkinson’s Disease & Movement Disorder Program at Rush University Medical Center (Rush) as a deep hearted thank you.

Opening Reception of Montezuma Nights – A Photographic Exhibition by Bradley Weiss, curated by Susan Aurinko. Runs thru June 21st. Portion of art proceeds benefits Parkinson’s disease.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

6:00pm – 9:00pm



1139 West Fulton Market, Chicago



In honor of: The Parkinson’s Disease & Movement Disorder Program at Rush University Medical Center and its team of magnificent doctors


Live Music by The Side Cars

Food graciously provided by 2nd Street Bistro, Highland Park

Libations graciously provided by Miner, BarnHill & Galland


Free to public


A portion of art proceeds opening night will benefit The Parkinson’s Disease & Movement Disorder Program at Rush University MedicalCenter as a deep hearted thank you to the doctors that gave Bradley his life back!

Interview Opportunities: Bradley Weiss, the doctors from The Parkinson’s Disease & Movement Disorder Program at Rush, Miner, BarnHill & Galland partner Jeffrey Miner, curator Susan Aurinko)

Photo Opportunities:  Bradley Weiss, his children Jack (17) & Leah (13), the doctors from The Parkinson’s Disease & Movement Disorder Program at Rush, Miner, BarnHill & Galland partner Judson Miner.

To arrange interviews, for a media kit and/or images and for more information contact: Abbe Sparks @ or


Bradley Weiss, Litigation Attorney & Fine Art Photographer
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New York Plans to Ban Sale of Big Sizes of Sugary Drinks

New York City plans to enact a far-reaching ban on the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks at restaurants, movie theaters and street carts, in the most ambitious effort yet by the Bloomberg administration to combat rising obesity.

The proposed ban would affect virtually the entire menu of popular sugary drinks found in delis, fast-food franchises and even sports arenas, from energy drinks to pre-sweetened iced teas. The sale of any cup or bottle of sweetened drink larger than 16 fluid ounces — about the size of a medium coffee, and smaller than a common soda bottle — would be prohibited under the first-in-the-nation plan, which could take effect as soon as next March… New York Plans to Ban Sale of Big Sizes of Sugary Drinks

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Promising Alzheimer’s News!

The New York Times By 
Published: May 15, 2012

New Drug Trial Seeks to Stop Alzheimer’s Before It Starts

In a clinical trial that could lead to treatments that preventAlzheimer’s, people who are genetically guaranteed to develop the disease — but who do not yet have any symptoms — will for the first time be given a drug intended to stop it, federal officials announced Tuesday. A version of this article appeared in print on May 16, 2012, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Drug Trial Aims For Prevention of Alzheimer’s.

Experts say the study will be one of the few ever conducted to test prevention treatments for any genetically predestined disease. For Alzheimer’s, the trial is unprecedented, “the first to focus on people who are cognitively normal but at very high risk for Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Francis S. Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health.

Most participants will come from the world’s largest family to experience Alzheimer’s, an extended clan of 5,000 people who live in Medellín, Colombia, and remote mountain villages outside that city. Family members with a specific genetic mutation begin showing cognitive impairment around age 45, and full dementia around age 51, debilitated in their prime working years as their memories fade and the disease quickly assaults their ability to move, eat, speak and communicate.

Three hundred family members will participate in the initial trial. Those with the mutation will be years away from symptoms, some as young as 30.

“Because of this study, we do not feel as alone,” said Gladys Betancur, 39, a family member. Her mother died of Alzheimer’s, three of her siblings already have symptoms, and she had a hysterectomy because of her fears that she has the mutation and would pass it on to her children. “Sometimes we think that life is ending, but now we feel that people are trying to help us.”

The $100 million study will last five years, but sophisticated tests may indicate in two years whether the drug helps delay memory decline or brain changes, said Dr. Eric M. Reiman, executive director of the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute in Phoenix and a study leader.

Alzheimer’s experts not involved in the study said that though only a small percentage of people with Alzheimer’s have the genetic early-onset form that affects the Colombian family, the trial was expected to yield information that could apply to millions of people worldwide who will develop more conventional Alzheimer’s.

“It offers a tremendous opportunity for us to answer a large number of questions, while at the same time offering these people some significant clinical help that otherwise they never would have had,” said Dr. Steven T. DeKosky, an Alzheimer’s researcher who is vice president and dean of the University of Virginia School of Medicine. Dr. DeKosky was part of a large group consulted early on, but is not involved in the study.

Some 5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer’s, and the numbers are expected to swell as the baby boom generation ages. Dr. Reiman’s team is planning a similar trial for people in the United States considered at increased risk for conventional late-onset Alzheimer’s. The study announced Tuesday will include a small number of Americans with gene mutations guaranteed to cause early-onset Alzheimer’s.

The drug trial is part of the federal government’s first national plan to address Alzheimer’s, which was unveiled Tuesday by Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary for health and human services. The government took the unusual step of assigning $50 million from the current year’s N.I.H. budget to research considered too promising to wait, including the Colombia trial and a study on whether inhaled insulin can ease mild cognitive impairment, Dr. Collins said. Another $100 million is proposed for 2013, mostly for research, but also for education, caregiver support and data collection.

Success for the Colombia trial is, of course, no sure thing. Many trials fail, and Alzheimer’s research has so far found no treatment effective for more than several months. But experts say that trying drugs years before symptoms emerge could have greater potential because the brain would not yet be ravaged by the disease. The trial will be financed with $16 million from the National Institutes of Health, $15 million from private donors through the Banner Institute and about $65 million from Genentech, the drug’s American manufacturer.

The drug, Crenezumab, attacks amyloid plaques in the brain. If it can forestall memory or cognitive problems, scientists will know that prevention or delay is possible and appears to lie in targeting amyloid years before dementia develops. Many, but not all, Alzheimer’s researchers believe amyloid is an underlying cause of Alzheimer’s.

In 2010, The New York Times reported on the pervasiveness of dementia in this large Colombian family and scientists’ hopes of testing prevention drugs. But persuading pharmaceutical companies to invest took months. There are scientific and ethical issues involved with giving drugs to people who are healthy and people who live in a developing country, some of whom have little education, paltry incomes and longstanding superstitions about the disease they call La Bobera — the foolishness.

“The first thing I did was to ask myself the question, Are we taking advantage of these folks?” said Richard H. Scheller, Genentech’s executive vice president of research and early development. “The answer was clearly no.”

The risks, he said, are balanced by the fact that if nothing is done, “they’re going to get this terrible, terrible disease for sure.”

The few trials of prevention therapies — involving ginkgo biloba, women’s hormone replacement treatment and anti-inflammatory drugs — have involved people not guaranteed to get the disease. These therapies either failed or caused adverse side effects.

Testing drugs on that kind of population takes “too many healthy volunteers, too much money, and too many years,” Dr. Reiman said.

The Colombian population is ideal because it is large enough to provide solid results, and it is easy to identify whom the disease will strike and when.

Crenezumab was chosen for the Colombia trial partly because it appears to have no negative side effects, unlike other drugs designed to clear amyloid from the brain, said Dr. Francisco Lopera, a Colombian neurologist who has worked with the family for decades and is a leader of the study. Other anti-amyloid treatments have caused edema in the blood vessels, an imbalance of fluid that can have serious consequences.

Crenezumab is currently being given in two clinical trials to people with mild to moderate symptoms of dementia in the United States, Canada and Western Europe to see if it can help reduce cognitive decline or amyloid accumulation, according to Genentech.

In the Colombia study, expected to start early next year, 100 family members with the mutation will receive the drug every two weeks in an injection at a hospital. Another 100 carriers will receive a placebo. And because many people do not want to know if they have the mutation, researchers will include 100 noncarriers in the study; they will receive a placebo.

Researchers have developed a sophisticated battery of five memory and cognitive tests that have been shown in other studies to detect subtle alterations in recall and thinking ability that usually go unnoticed. Dr. Pierre N. Tariot, director of the Banner Institute and a leader of the study, said the measurements would involve recalling words, naming objects, nonverbal reasoning, remembering time and place, and drawing tests involving copying complex figures.

Dr. Tariot said researchers would also assess changes in people’s emotional state, “irritability, sadness, crying, anxiety, impulsivity — these are cardinal features of the disease as it emerges.”

The scientists will take physiological measurements, including PET scans that measure amyloid and how glucose is metabolized in the brain, M.R.I. scans that measure whether the brain is shrinking, and cerebral spinal fluid tests that measure amyloid and tau, a protein in dying brain cells.

If any of these indicators are improved by the drug, Dr. Reiman said, scientists may then be able to treat one of these early physiological changes, just as high blood pressure and cholesterol are treated to prevent heart disease.

In Medellín, Marcela Agudelo, 17, has Alzheimer’s on both sides of her family because her parents are distant cousins. Marcela watched her maternal grandmother die, and her father, 55, once a vibrant livestock trader, has deteriorated so much that he can no longer walk, talk or laugh.

With the research, “we have more hope for a cure,” Marcela said, “or at least a better life.”

Dabrali Jimenez contributed reporting.

Todd Heisler/The New York Times Brain scans of a member of a Colombian family who has Alzheimer’s, which leads to dementia.

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The Be-Well Lake County Community Dig Day

This diabetes education, treatment and awareness program is a community health initiative at its best, Committed to providing greater access to comprehensive diabetes care and education for medically underserved patients in Lake County, the Auxiliary at NorthShore Highland Park Hospital, through its annual appeal, has donated nearly $700,000 to this initiative. To donate, contact The Auxiliary at And, consider joining us on dig day

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Chicago’s Mars Gallery Opening Night of Montezuma Nights-Bradley Weiss’ Photo Exhibition Benefiting Rush University Medical Center For Parkinson’s Disease

Opening night reception of Bradley S. Weiss’ photo exhibition at Chicago’s Mars Gallery benefiting Rush University Medical Center to thank and honor their Movement Disorder Group & Neurosurgical Teams for treating Brad’s Parkinson’s Disease and giving him his life back!

Music by The Sidecars, a jazzy sound with a south American edge. Catering by Highland Park’s hottest new bistros, 2nd Street Bistro & Enoteca
Libations donated by Brad’s old law fim of Miner Barnhill & Galland

Curated by Susan Aurinko
Featuring Photography of Bradley s, Weiss and Leah Weiss