It's Friday. Are you even aware of what else today is?

Bookmark and Share Trade & IP Unit | Tim Wilson
The Punch 6th May, 2011

Most of us should be pretty happy it's Friday - even if it means the end of Tourette Syndrome Awareness Week.

(Tourette Syndrome is never, ever funny. Not even in this clip.)

If you didn't know, it's actually an inherited disorder involving "tics" but for most sufferers it doesn't involve involuntarily saying four letter words that begin with "s", "f" and occasionally "c". Nor is it probably how namesake George Gilles de la Tourette probably expected to be remembered in history.

But what purpose does Tourette Syndrome Awareness Week actually serve? More to the point what do Awareness Days, Weeks and Years provide, period?

Awareness Days/Week/Years no doubt started out as a celebration of things that matter.

In 1959/60 the United Nations established the World Refugee Year in the wake of nearly a quarter of a century of war-related migration.

And 1978 celebrated International Anti-Apartheid Year, which sent a pretty clear message to the government of South Africa.

But by 1992 the UN was already clutching at straws by endorsing International Space Year.

And by 2008 they'd tired of space and decided it was the Year for Planet Earth, along with the Year for everything else including Sanitation, Languages and the Potato.

I understand the big pumpkin lobby was pretty pissed about the last one.

And it goes well beyond the UN with Google supporting 2007's Geography Awareness Week which, call me cynical, probably coincided about the same time they were setting up Google Maps.

And then there's Wound Awareness Week to draw attention to the issues facing people with, well, wounds.

Despite my best Googling skills I haven't found much evidence that naming days, weeks or years achieves very much.

After all, while Tourette Syndrome Awareness Week sunsets today, according to the Department of Health, so do National Mothering Week and Motor Neurone Disease Week.

And by Monday we're already in World Homeopathy Awareness Week, Diversional Therapy Awareness Week and Allergy and Chemical Sensitivity Week all enveloped in Neurofibromatosis Awareness Month during the International Year of Forests. 

What they do is provide a focus for awareness activity like tomorrow's conference under the witty banner "X Don't get cross ... Because I tic!" which, for a $55 registration fee ($45 for members), you get some lectures and a DVD and brochure "What is Tourette Syndrome?".

By comparison, events supporting World Hug Day (21 January) are pretty self explanatory.

No doubt branding plays a big part in their success. For example, EB Awareness Week uses in its advertising images of a teddy bear with a face made out of a cactus - apparently that's what a teddy bear feels like for a kid with the rare skin disease Epidermolysis Bullosa.

I suspect it's far more effective branding than the Australian Division of World Action on Salt and Health, or AWASH, and their celebration of Salt Awareness Week with its insightful branding "Danger, Watch out for SALT".

All jokes aside, these Days/Weeks/Years clearly matter to the people involved.

As someone who works in intellectual property policy I celebrated World IP Day yesterday.

Unsurprisingly I doubt many others were as excited as me and opened a few geographical indication-protected champagne bottles in celebration.

Well actually it was more like trademarked Coke Zero cans. But you get the gist. 

Because while some days are there for celebration, many are about serious diseases that one day might affect you, which is why we should probably all celebrate July's Continence Awareness Week.