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Does celebrity involvement in public health campaigns deliver long term benefit? No

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e6362 (Published 25 September 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e6362
  1. Geof Rayner, honorary research fellow
  1. 1City University London, London, UK
  1. mail{at}rayner.uk.com

Simon Chapman (doi:10.1136/bmj.e6364) thinks that the extra publicity that celebrities provide can help promote public health, but Geof Rayner is worried about the insidious influences of celebrity

Can celebrity involvement deliver long term benefit for public health? The short answer is no, for the logical reason that celebrity status is fleeting. Celebrities might impart a short term boost to campaigns—Jamie Oliver showed this at a time when the school meals campaign was wallowing in obscurity—but as the noble Oliver would doubtless accept, celebrities must tread a cautious path of support because of the risk that the celebrity becomes the story, not the campaign.

It’s not until you start delving into the role of celebrity culture on health that the negatives begin to stack up. What celebrity culture does so effectively is promote icons of rampant consumerism and fantasy lifestyle. It’s hardly chance that our society’s manufactured obsession with celebrities has coincided with a period of starkly rising inequality. Multimillionaire football “stars”—mostly from working class backgrounds—give the lie to the idea that anyone can make it or that vast incomes are justified “because I’m worth it.”

Unhealthy influences

Celebrity …

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