Media coverage and public reaction to a celebrity cancer diagnosis

D. Metcalfe, C. Price, J. Powell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

48 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background Celebrity diagnoses can have important effects on public behaviour. UK television celebrity Jade Goody died from cervical cancer in 2009. We investigated the impact of her illness on media coverage of cervical cancer prevention, health information seeking behaviour and cervical screening coverage. Methods National UK newspaper articles containing the words 'Jade Goody' and 'cancer' were examined for public health messages. Google Insights for Search was used to quantify Internet searches as a measure of public health information seeking. Cervical screening coverage data were examined for temporal associations with this story. Results Of 1203 articles, 116 (9.6%) included a clear public health message. The majority highlighted screening (8.2%). Fewer articles provided advice about vaccination (3.0%), number of sexual partners (1.4%), smoking (0.6%) and condom use (0.4%). Key events were associated with increased Internet searches for 'cervical cancer' and 'smear test', although only weakly with searches for 'HPV'. Cervical screening coverage increased during this period. Conclusion Increased public interest in disease prevention can follow a celebrity diagnosis. Although media coverage sometimes included public health information, articles typically focused on secondary instead of primary prevention. There is further potential to maximize the public health benefit of future celebrity diagnoses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)80-85
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Public Health
Volume33
Issue number1
Early online date2 Aug 2010
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2011
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Free access to article

Keywords

  • cancer
  • health promotion
  • screening

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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