Celebrities and public health
What happens when famous people set the public health agenda?
Jade Goody, the controversial star of reality TV show Big Brother, made headlines in 2008 when she was told that she had cervical cancer on India’s version of the show Big Brother, Bigg Boss. She then took part in two documentaries, released a biography, and worked with her publicist, Max Clifford, to keep the public updated on developments in the state of her health, until her death in March 2009.
The publicity brought cervical cancer into the public consciousness and rapidly reversed a decade of decline in the number of young women having smear tests to detect the disease. Christened the “Jade effect,” it saw some laboratories experience as much as a 50% increase in demand for screening in the immediate aftermath.1 But as evidence emerges that the Jade effect is fading, and that testing is rapidly returning to pre-Goody levels, questions are being asked about the effectiveness of celebrities