In order to raise awareness about one of the most common genetic disorders in the United States, a resolution sponsored by Assembly Democrats Annette Quijano and Britnee N. Timberlake designating September of every year as Sickle Cell Awareness Month was signed into law Wednesday.
Sickle cell disease is a group of inherited blood disorders, including sickle cell anemia, that effect around 100,000 Americans. The disease is most prevalent among people of African descent, as well as those with Indian, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern ancestry.
Individuals with this genetic disorder have misshapen red blood cells that die early, thereby causing a constant shortage of these vital cells that carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, with the potential for serious health complications.
The purpose of designating an awareness month through this resolution (AJR-112/SJR-38) is to help raise awareness about the genetic risk factors associated with the disease, as well as symptoms of and treatments for sickle cell disease.
Upon the resolution becoming law, Assemblywomen Quijano (D-Union) and Timberlake (D-Essex, Passaic) issued the following joint statement:
“Designating Sickle Cell Awareness Month in New Jersey will encourage our state to play a more active role in helping members of the public understand exactly what this group of genetic disorders entail.
“Many people with the genetic trait for sickle cell disease are unaware that they have it. Yet if both a mother and father carry this trait, each of their children will have a 25 percent chance of being born with the disease. With more awareness, more people could get genetic testing that would help them understand and prepare for that possibility in advance.
“This resolution also asks the Governor to encourage public officials to conduct various programs and activities to help promote more widespread knowledge of this disease. The more residents understand the symptoms of sickle cell disease, the more they can seek out the care and treatment they need.”