National campaigns spotlight hospice

Raising voices in song and praise

Coming soon to a concert hall near you, and to hundreds of other sites, thousands of voices in a worldwide performance of Handel’s oratorio Messiah, in praise of hospice. British Telecom Voices for Hospice is the world’s largest celebration of the work of hospice, with musical performances scheduled for 7:30 p.m. local time, in 35 countries spanning most time zones around the world on Oct. 18. This year’s is the third such event, and the second to be sponsored by British Telecom, a communications corporation.

The greatest number of events will be held in the United Kingdom, with some 200 to 250 events. The United States has 50 to 55 registered sites.

Movement’s founder will participate

Dame Cicely Saunders, founder of the modern hospice movement, will be present to launch U.S. participation in this international event at the Hospice Association of America/National Association for Home Care (HAA/NAHC) annual meeting in Boston, along with Boston’s Trinity Church Choir.

Local hospice programs are free to organize their own events, whether with professional musicians or enthusiastic volunteers, whether as a concert or a sing-along, says Suzanne Keiffer, NAHC’s public relations coordinator. "It’s your event. We will provide support." But it should be a wonderful opportunity to raise money and hospice awareness. Keiffer encourages participants to register with her [(202) 546-4759], so they can be counted.

"Handle with Care" is a year-long public awareness campaign sponsored by the National Hospice Organization (NHO) and HAA, with the partnership and input of local and state hospice organizations for the purpose of overcoming widespread misconceptions about hospice care. A centerpiece of the campaign is a photographic image of a mother and infant with the slogan, "When we enter this world, we’re surrounded by love, comfort, and care. Don’t we deserve the same when we leave?" The prototype for this campaign was developed by Hospice of the Western Reserve in Cleveland. (See Hospice Management Advisor, June 1997, p. 69.)

NHO’s director of membership services, David Schneider, says the campaign will play out differently in different communities, depending on local interest, involvement, and advertising budgets. Some hospices may be able to land free placement of the camera-ready print ads or radio public service announcements.

A press kit was sent to state associations and provider members of HAA and NHO in August. The implementation manual contains specific talking points on issues such as physician-assisted suicide, Operation Restore Trust investigations of hospice by the Office of Inspector General and how to raise hospice awareness in general.

Schneider says he hopes local hospices will use the campaign "in a way which will improve general awareness and understanding. Be opportunistic with it. The overall goal is a deeper, not just a wider, understanding of hospice, which ultimately will translate into more timely and appropriate referrals. But this is a long-term process. We plan to use 1996 Gallup Poll data as a benchmark. That poll demonstrates the disconnection between the public’s recognition of hospice and its associations with the set of services hospice provides. Our goal is to try to close that gap."

Hospice programs are encouraged to contact their state organizations for more information. NHO and HAA will also be collaborating on November National Hospice Month observances.