The EPDA’s early years saw a flurry of activity that established the umbrella organisation as a true ‘mover and shaker’ in the world of Parkinson’s. However, 1997 proved to be a landmark year with the first ever World Parkinson’s Disease Day on 11 April, which also saw the launch of the Charter for People with Parkinson’s in London, the UK.
The event, which commemorated the birthday of Dr James Parkinson, was the first of successive annual World Parkinson’s Disease Day celebrations – every year it aims to raise the profile of Parkinson’s and enhance the public's awareness of the disease.
The 1997 event was totally unique – more than 30 Parkinson’s organisations around the world united on the same day to not only raise awareness of the disease but also to support the EPDA’s Charter. This sense of unity had never been seen before on such a scale. Previously, European Parkinson’s organisations saw themselves as independent entities and held their own regional awareness periods at different times of the year. There was no single day devoted to the disease.
World Parkinson’s Disease Day has since taken place every year on 11 April, inspiring countless awareness-raising activities from Parkinson’s organisations around the world. In short, it has become the most important date in the Parkinson’s calendar.
To put the event in context of the time, it was co-sponsored by the World Health Organisation and attracted a wealth of high-profile support including Pope John Paul II, Luciano Pavarotti, Princess Diana, Muhammad Ali, various UK prime ministers and other influential people from around the world.