COLUMBUS, Ga., Sept. 1, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Aflac, a leading provider of supplemental insurance in the U.S. and a strong supporter of children with cancer and blood disorders, announced today that the company is commemorating National Sickle Cell Awareness Month with several educational initiatives and activities throughout the month and beyond. Beginning in early 2022, Aflac will expand its successful My Special Aflac Duck program to children with sickle cell disease (SCD). The comforting companion will be updated with new accessories to reflect the specific needs of children suffering the inherited blood disease that disproportionately affects the African American community. My Special Aflac Duck will be available free of charge to children with SCD who are 3 years of age and older.
Developed by Sproutel, a patient-centered design company in Providence, Rhode Island, My Special Aflac Duck was introduced at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where it received numerous awards, including Best in Show. It subsequently received the top award at SxSW and was named one of Time magazine's best 50 inventions of the year. Since 2018, My Special Aflac Duck has been helping provide comfort to nearly 12,000 children facing pediatric cancer across the U.S. and Japan. Since 1995, Aflac has contributed more than $155 million to the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, including the sickle cell disease program.
"More than 300 participating hospitals and oncology organizations across the U.S. and Japan are using My Special Aflac Duck to help comfort children during extremely arduous cancer treatments," Aflac Executive Vice President and General Counsel Audrey Boone Tillman said. "We are expanding the program to include kids who are battling sickle cell disease and other blood disorders, to ensure that they receive the same comfort that our duck has been helping provide children with cancer since 2018.
"To many of us, particularly African Americans at Aflac, this is personal," Tillman added. "We know how terrible sickle cell disease can be, and we are confident that My Special Aflac Duck will be an excellent addition for medical professionals who are looking for ways to help provide comfort for their young patients."
"Sickle cell disease is an often painful and underfunded disease that affects people from traditionally underserved communities. It carries a stigma, particularly for children who want to be like other kids but cannot because of the symptoms and effects of their condition," said Dr. Beatrice Gee, medical director of sickle cell and hematology at the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children's. "My Special Aflac Duck and its accessories designed for children with sickle cell disease are a great addition to our program, as it helps kids cope with their treatments and better understand that they are not alone."
Research-based updates to the program include My Special Aflac Duck accessories designed to help reinforce care routines for children with SCD. For example, extreme temperature change and dehydration can trigger an SCD crisis, which inspired the creation of a customizable blanket children can use to keep their duck warm as well as new features in the companion app that give children fun ways to make sure their My Special Aflac Duck stays hydrated. New packaging will reflect that their My Special Aflac Duck was created especially for them, which was a strong sentiment expressed by patients and parents during the research period.
Working with partners, including the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children's, Morehouse School of Medicine, the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America and Children's Miracle Network Hospitals, Aflac aims to help educate about the impact of SCD on children and families. The integrated campaign, #AflacSickleCellSense, includes real stories from people facing sickle cell disease and celebrities with family members who have been impacted by the disease. On Sept. 23 at 1 p.m. EDT and again on Sept. 30 at 5 p.m. EDT, Aflac will gather with experts and health care providers to conduct informative webinars on the need for greater funding, address racial disparities in the health care field and build more mainstream awareness about SCD.
"With nearly 40 years of caring for patients with sickle cell disease, I have seen firsthand the dreadful impact it has on families. I applaud Aflac for their decision to provide their comforting My Special Aflac Duck to help ease the pain that children with sickle cell disease often endure. We look forward to working with them to educate Americans about this terrible disease, which significantly impacts traditionally underserved communities of color," said Yasmin Tyler-Hill, M.D., FAAP, professor and chair of clinical pediatrics at Morehouse School of Medicine, an HBCU, and one of America's leading educators of primary care physicians. "The lack of adequate funding for this inherited disease illustrates a health care disparity that needs to be addressed, which starts by educating individuals about the challenges people, particularly children, face with sickle cell disease or carrying the sickle cell trait."
About Aflac Incorporated Aflac Incorporated (NYSE: AFL) is a Fortune 500 company helping provide protection to more than 50 million people through its subsidiaries in Japan and the U.S., where it is a leading supplemental insurer, by paying cash fast when policyholders get sick or injured. For more than six decades, insurance policies of Aflac Incorporated's subsidiaries have given policyholders the opportunity to focus on recovery, not financial stress. Aflac Life Insurance Japan is the leading provider of medical and cancer insurance in Japan, where it insures 1 in 4 households. For 15 consecutive years, Aflac Incorporated has been recognized by Ethisphere as one of the World's Most Ethical Companies. In 2021, Fortune included Aflac Incorporated on its list of World's Most Admired Companies for the 20th time, and Bloomberg added Aflac Incorporated to its Gender-Equality Index, which tracks the financial performance of public companies committed to supporting gender equality through policy development, representation and transparency, for the second consecutive year. To find out how to get help with expenses health insurance doesn't cover, get to know us at Aflac.com or Aflac.com/Espanol.
About Morehouse School of Medicine Founded in 1975, Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) is among the nation's leading educators of primary care physicians, biomedical scientists, and public health professionals. An independent and private historically-Black medical school, MSM was recognized by the Annals of Internal Medicine as the nation's number one medical school in fulfilling a social mission—the creation and advancement of health equity. MSM faculty and alumni are noted for excellence in teaching, research, and public policy, as well as exceptional patient care. MSM is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award doctoral and master's degrees. To learn more about programs and donate today, please visit www.msm.edu or call 404-752-1500.