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The Celebrity Effect – Who Wins and Who Loses?

August 18, 2015

Celebrities influence – whether we like or not. They have large followings on social media and when they endorse, make a plea or proclaim something, people listen. In health and social media, there are countless examples of celebrity influence doing good and doing harm.

Doing good

Take for example the Helene Campbell effect. Campbell, before receiving a double lung transplant, asked friends to help her raise awareness about organ and tissue donations through a Twitter campaign using the hashtag #beanorgandonor. Her ultimate goal was to reach celebrity Canadian Justin Bieber. When he tweeted about her website and story, organ donations skyrocketed. Ontario’s Trillium Gift of Life Network had to scramble to accommodate the sudden increase in traffic to their website and donor pledges. A good problem to have and they set to work to keep the Helene effect going.

Clara Hughes, Canadian Olympic speedskater and cyclist, has lent her name, fame, energy and sweat to help reduce the stigma of mental health, partnering with Bell Canada on #BellLetsTalk Day. Bell launched the campaign in 2010 and over the 5 years has donated more than $73 million to Canadian mental health initiatives. Several other celebrities have become spokepersons. The campaign is aimed at raising awareness and ending stigma surrounding mental health issues. #hcsmca talked about the campaign in 2013 and asked What good did it do?

Doing harm

But there are 2 sides to every coin. In recent news, the US Food and Drug Administration sent a warning letter to the pharmaceutical company Duchesnay after Kim Kardashian touts morning-sickness drug.

And what about when celebrities take it upon themselves to proclaim health benefits of lifestyle choices based on pseudo-science? Author and health policy expert Timothy Caulfield debunks celebrity health trends, from gluten-free diets to colon cleanses.

When #hcsmca returns on Wednesday, August 17 at 1pm ET (time zone converter), we’ll examine the good, bad and ugly of celebrity influence on public health via social media.

  • T1: How have you been influenced (for better or worse) by celebrity in health decisions?
  • T2: How has celebrity influence helped or harmed your cause?
  • T3: Can physicians or medical experts play a role as health ‘celebrities’?

What questions would you like to explore during the chat? Tweet me at @colleen_young.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 18, 2015 10:57 am

    Great topic…I look forward to joining the discussion from south of the border. Certainly two celebrity influencers here in the US who have caused public health harm, in my opinion, are Jenny McCarthy (anti-vaccine) and Sarah Palin (death panels).
    Pam Ressler

    Liked by 1 person

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