Does celebrity involvement in public health campaigns deliver long term benefit? Yes

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e6364 (Published 25 September 2012)
Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e6364

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  1. Simon Chapman, professor of public health
  1. 1University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
  1. simon.chapman{at}sydney.edu.au

Simon Chapman thinks that the extra publicity that celebrities provide can help promote public health, but Geof Rayner (doi:10.1136/bmj.e6362) is worried about the insidious influences of celebrity

Celebrities seem to appear often in news reports about health and medicine. Since 2005, my research group has recorded all health related content on all five free-to-air Sydney TV channels. As of 21 August 2011, 1657/29 322 (6%) of news items have featured celebrities, which is substantially lower than the proportion featuring people experiencing disease or injury (60%), experts and health workers (50%), and politicians (49%).1 Celebrities often get involved because of personal experience with a disease or because they share the concerns of other citizens and want to help by offering the publicity magnet intrinsic to their celebrity. And like experts, some probably calculate that a public profile on good causes might also be good for their careers.

Value of publicity

Celebrities are by definition newsworthy before they embrace any subject. When they do, again just like experts, they turn in a range of performances. Those concerned about …

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