Lady Gaga graces the cover of the Spring 2017 edition of Arthritis magazine — But what is the role of celebrity in public health?
In the age of social media, celebrities can directly connect and share their personal experiences with their fans and the entire world like never before. When it comes to health, is that a good thing? There isn’t an easy answer. It depends who is asking and what their goals are.
Before looking at the various ways a celebrity can have an impact on public health, I would like to commend Lady Gaga’s bravery for sharing her experiences with Arthritis Magazine. Discussing health matters can be difficult enough when considering what to share with family and friends. Her decision to share her experience with strangers may help the millions of people around the world with rheumatoid arthritis, synovitis, or other chronic conditions talk about their own challenges.
Additionally, by participating in an interview with Arthritis Magazine, an arthritis-specific publication that has an incredibly targeted readership, Lady Gaga’s experiences will be read in a trusted source that is familiar with sharing health content. Statements by Vulture and Refinery 29 which say that this cover isn’t Lady Gaga’s “hippest” or “most glamorous,” respectively, are disheartening and suggest that the aim of this type of honesty is to further an individual’s brand. Poor puns aside, ‘glamour‘ was originally used to describe a magic spell that was cast to make people see what they wanted even when it was not really there. Aren’t there enough unknowns in health without magazine editors imposing new ones?
Celebrities and Disease Awareness
How do you measure if a celebrity is helping people better understand a disease? When Selena Gomez shared her struggles with lupus, there were sizable increases in both Google search traffic and Wikipedia page views for lupus. As more and more people rely on the internet to answer their health questions, these metrics show that a single person can have a large impact on a single disease.
A more traditional approach is to look at the amount of money that celebrity health advocates help raise for certain diseases. One of the most well-known celebrity disease organizations is the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. That foundation has contributed more than $450 million for Parkinson’s research. But not all celebrities are able to have the same positive impact. It is crucial that celebrities use their “megaphone” to advance scientifically sound and rigorously tested data or large numbers of people can be accidentally misled.
Kim Kardashian and Medication Endorsements
Instagram makes it easier than ever for mwindowsproductkey.com celebrities to share their health insights in the blink of an eye. When Kim Kardashian posted about a morning sickness drug, it was ‘liked’ more than 450,000 times by her 42 million followers. While the drug company enjoyed the unexpected press, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) didn’t.
An FDA regulation prohibits promoting a drug without mentioning the risks of the medication. This applies to tv ads, print ads, and social media. Kardashian received a warning letter from the FDA and removed the post. This shows the power of celebrity and, to be fair, an understanding by the FDA that ad-hoc endorsements by high profile figures effectively function as ads.