Annual Sickle Cell Disease “High Five Awareness Walk” Will Hit Streets of Midtown Detroit Saturday Morning

The walk highlights hope based on research and treatment breakthroughs at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan and elsewhere

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Encouraged and energized by some recent gains in the continuing struggle against the ravages of sickle cell disease, hundreds of enthusiastic healthcare activists are expected to gather at Detroit’sMuseum of African American History on Saturday morning (September 10) for the Third Annual SCD High Five Awareness Walk.

Their yearly pilgrimage, organized and led by the Michigan Chapter of the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America (SCDAA), seeks to increase public awareness of the disease – while also raising funds to support client services in Detroit, according to Wanda Whitten-Shurney, M.D., who’s been treating sickle cell patients at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan for the past 30 years.

SCD currently affects about 100,000 Americans and an estimated 10 million people worldwide. Although it can strike all ethnicities, the great majority of U.S. SCD patients are of African-American or Hispanic origin. The disease is inherited and is caused by a mutated gene that triggers the production of abnormal hemoglobin in red blood cells. Patients with SCD often struggle with lifelong anemia, severe pain and shortened life spans.

“Our goal in hosting the Awareness Walk is to try and put sickle cell disease on the healthcare map,” said Dr. Whitten-Shurney, a Children’s Hospital of Michigan pediatrician who last March was named to the advisory committee that shapes public health policy on SCD issues at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), a branch of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Dr. Whitten-Shurney is also currently the CEO and medical director of the Michigan chapter of the SCDAA, which is hosting Saturday’s Annual SCD Awareness Walk.

“We hear all the time about cancer, hypertension and diabetes – but we also want people to remember that sickle cell disease is still here,” added Dr. Whitten-Shurney. “This is a chronic, lifelong disease for most patients . . . but unfortunately, it doesn’t always get the attention – or the resources to support patient services – that it rightly deserves. These [SCD] patients frequently endure great pain. They also suffer often from anemia and sometimes a life-altering stroke. And many don’t live beyond their forties or fifties, because their life spans are often shortened by the disease.”

She says the Awareness Walk is an essential part of alerting the public to the fact that this often devastating disease is still an extremely painful health threat to millions of human beings.” As a member of the NHLBI Sickle Cell Advisory Committee, one of my first priorities is to work for better communication and better educational outreach about SCD – and the Annual Awareness Walk is a key component in that strategy.”

The Pediatrician-in-Chief of the Children’s Hospital of Michigan and Interim Director of its Children’s Research Center of Michigan (CRCM), Steven E. Lipshultz, M.D., and Ahmad Charaf Eddine, M.D., a Children’s Hospital of Michigan cardiologist, have published findings that abnormalities in the heart and blood vessel structure and function are related to sickle cell disease severity. That has resulted in the Children’s Research Center of Michigan (CRCM) having been selected by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the NIH to serve as the nation’s central cardiology core laboratory for its multicenter Baby Hug study that is currently studying the cardiovascular effects of hydroxyurea and of sickle cell disease.

Dr. Lipshultz said that events such as the upcoming SCD Awareness Walk play “an important part in bringing public attention to the crucial role played by research in pediatric medicine.

“The Children’s Hospital of Michigan has become a national leader in SCD research in recent years,” added Dr. Lipshultz, “and I can’t think of a better example of how such clinical research is absolutely essential to achieving our overriding goal of accomplishing better patient outcomes.”  

This year’s SCD Awareness Walk is set to begin at 10 a.m., with registration (for those who haven’t already pre-registered) starting at 9 a.m. at the Detroit Museum of African American History at 315 East Warren Avenue in midtown Detroit. The walk will also allow attendees to participate in a variety of related activities – including face-painting, giveaways, free SCD testing, dancing and music selected by a professional DJ. To learn more about the walk and how to contribute to SCDAA “High Five” campaign please visit:  http://www.scdaami.org/.

About the Children’s Hospital of Michigan, www.childrensdmc.org

For more than 130 years, the Children’s Hospital of Michigan has been dedicated to providing high quality care to children and adolescents in a caring, efficient and family-centered environment. With more than 40 pediatric medical and surgical specialty services, the hospital draws patients from nearly every Michigan County, 39 additional states, and 22 countries, annually and provides the highest level of pediatric specialty care available for children. The hospital is a national leader in cardiology and heart surgery, neurology and neurosurgery, nephrology, and orthopedics. It is ranked as one of America’s best hospitals for children and sees more children than any hospital in the state. Children’s Hospital of Michigan is one of eight hospitals operated by the Detroit Medical Center (DMC).

Media Contact:  Elise Bennett
Children’s Hospital of Michigan
Office: (313) 966-5288

ebennett@dmc.org