The Rainbow Spectrum of Medical Ribbons

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As medicine becomes more adept at identifying, diagnosing, and treating medical conditions, it’s important that pioneers in medicine receive help from the world. Raising awareness is always the first and, very often, the most effective way of gathering resources that help in improving the quality of life. 

A gentle way for people to raise awareness about a disorder is by sporting a ribbon fashioned in a particular style. Most awareness ribbons are short, crossed over, and displayed on the chest. But different ribbons raise awareness for different conditions. In fact, different institutions may have different associations of color with medical conditions. That’s why the same color could represent multiple ailments. Here are a few: 


The red ribbon could raise awareness for HIV and AIDS and burn victims. It also represents a variety of congenital heart conditions and hemophilia. It includes stroke and related conditions like cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and hypertension. It can also raise awareness for substance abuse. 


Yellow raises awareness for a variety of cancers and neurological disorders like microcephaly and spina bifida. But most interestingly, it raises awareness of missing children. This way, colored ribbons help a larger, more general cause by raising health and safety issues. Yellow is also among the many colors that stand for suicide prevention.


Like yellow, blue also raises awareness on issues of sociopolitical importance, such as foster care awareness, human trafficking, sex trafficking, and bullying. It is worn during the national non-smoking week in Canada and provides moral support to those struggling with addiction recovery. It also represents many lesser-known diseases like Pompe Disease, Von Hippel-Lindau, Epstein-Barr Virus, Leukodystrophies, and Hidradenitis Suppurativa. 

Blue is one color that can represent very different conditions depending on whether it is light blue, navy blue, royal blue, robin egg blue, or denim blue. 


Green represents many mental health conditions, such as manic depression, bipolar disorder, and childhood depression. It also symbolizes neurological conditions like cerebral palsy, neural tube defects, spinal cord injuries or traumatic brain injuries, and aging research awareness. It also advocates for literacy, eye injury prevention, living organ donation, and tissue donation. 

The meaning of a green ribbon, too, can vary depending on whether it is lime green, light green, mint green, turquoise, etc. 


Orange ribbons are a tribute to Agent Orange, the chemical used during the war, and its resulting medical effects. It also raises awareness about neuropsychological conditions related to pain, ADHD, sensory processing disorder, and functional neurological disorder. 


ADD, ADHD, cerebrospinal fluid leak, Alzheimer’s disease, hemiplegia, stroke, neuropathy, Epilepsy, and cystic fibrosis are some neuropsychological conditions that purple ribbons represent. It also campaigns against domestic violence and elder abuse, celebrates spirit day, and acts as a tribute to victims of homophobia. 


Many ribbons have more than one color. Some have two, some three, and some have the whole VIBGYOR spectrum. It’s important to consult someone in charge when you’re going to attend an event for a specific cause, or you might end up wearing the wrong color!

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