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Two hands hold up an ostomy bag with a map of the world on it.

Coming Soon: World Ostomy Day

Here in the US, we are fortunate to have an organization and national support to celebrate an Ostomy Awareness Day annually on the first Saturday in October. What many don't realize, though, is that it is not always World Ostomy Day (WOD).

WOD only happens every 3 years, and this year will be the 10th World Ostomy Day. For those trying to do the math in your head, that places the first World Ostomy Day 30 years ago! Who knew?!?!

What is World Ostomy Day?

The International Ostomy Association (IOA) leads the efforts for World Ostomy Day. They have regional groups in Europe, Asia, and the Americas. The European group has member organizations from 20 countries. Asia has 14, and the Americas have an unknown number of groups because their regional website is currently under reconstruction, but it is numerous. It would be quite a feat to coordinate a WOD every year, which is why it happens every 3 years.

Still, only countries participate in the IOA, but there are currently 195 countries globally. Only about 30 percent of the world's countries are actively advocating, educating, and supporting ostomates. Clearly, we still have some work to do!

Image of a doll and stuffed bunny inside of life ring with text: Ostomies are life-savers

Unfortunately, the history of WOD has not been clearly documented in one reliable place. If it is somewhere on the worldwide web, I've not found it! However, this is the second WOD that I'm participating in as an ostomate to speak on and share my experiences.

World Ostomy Day theme

Each year there is a theme for OAD, and WOD is no exception. This year's WOD theme is "Ostomates' Rights are Human Rights – anytime and anywhere!"

The European Ostomy Association was tasked with designating this year's motto. You can incorporate this into your social media and blog posts for the day by utilizing popular hashtags, including #Ostomy, #OstomyLife, #OADChat, #OstomyAwareness, and #WorldOstomyDay.

First of all, I'll let it be known that I am a sucker for a theme! I'll go out of my way to wear the right colors at a minimum. The colors most commonly used for ostomy awareness are blue and green. Wearing the colors is perhaps the easiest thing you can do to raise awareness and start a conversation.

Connecting with other ostomates

Connect with a support group for WOD. The United Ostomy Associations of America (UOAA) has more than 300 Affiliated Support Groups (ASGs) listed on their site, including a virtual group for LGBTQIA+ and a pediatric group.

They also have information listed for Puerto Rico, Bermuda, and Trinidad and Tobago. It is noteworthy that in some countries, the colostomy/ileostomy groups are separated from the urostomy groups, so if you are not finding an organization near you with the search word "ostomy," you may want to search for "urostomy" specifically.

Even if you do not live in a country with an IOA affiliated ostomy association, there are almost always groups that you can reach out to. Many organizations that have virtual support options will welcome anyone from anywhere to provide support to ostomates. The easiest way to stay in touch with virtual support options is to connect to the Ostomy 101 app on your smartphone or tablet.

Advocating on World Ostomy Day

You can write to your politicians as part of your WOD celebrations. UOAA makes it really easy to do if you're in the US with a special setup that does all the work for you. All you have to do is add your personal experience and information, and they will send electronic letters to your local politicians. You can also request a proclamation for World Ostomy Day for your state or region. You can access their "take action" steps here.

selfie Of advocate in green shirt with Ostomy buttons on it

There are always many virtual events happening this year to celebrate the momentous occasion. Many have not been announced yet, so be sure to watch social media for these opportunities. How do you plan to acknowledge World Ostomy Day? Tell us in the comments below, or share your story with the community.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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