5 Health Movements Inspired by Celebrities

5 Health Movements Inspired by Celebrities

Magic Johnson
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One of the true powers of celebrity is to influence others in a positive way. Sometimes celebrities share their concerns about health or struggles with illness, and this sparks awareness and action among the general public.

Here are 5 celebrity-inspired health movements.

Angelina Jolie: BRCA Testing

Angelina Jolie
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Everybody knows that Angelina Jolie is committed to the welfare of others--she was a Goodwill Ambassador for the UN.  Moreover Jolie and her hubby, Brad Pitt, were early supporters of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina with the establishment of Make it Right, a foundation dedicated to the construction of affordable and green housing for those in need.

In recent years, Jolie has published high-profile op-eds in The New York Times discussing her decision to have prophylactic mastectomy (elective breast removal) and later prophylactic salpingo-oophorectomy (elective removal of the fallopian tubes and ovaries) after testing positive for the gene mutation.

Mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 increase risk for ovarian cancer, breast cancer and more.  Please note that removing organs is the most extreme risk-management option for BRCA mutations, and not necessarily the best option for every person with these mutations,

Jolie's willingness to share her story did get our attention and resulted in what some researchers call the Angelina Jolie effect. The Angelina Jolie effect refers to a global and sustained increase in the number of woman being referred for possible BRCA testing.

Magic Johnson: HIV/AIDS

Magic Johnson
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On November 7, 1991, beaming basketball great Magic Johnson announced that he had HIV.  Before his announcement, many people still thought that only gay men fell ill with this terrible infection. After Johnson went public, we all knew that anyone could be at risk.  

A 1992 paper published in AIDS Education and Prevention helped highlight the immediate effects of Johnson's decision to go public with his diagnosis. Study respondents--especially those who were "high risk"--reported a dramatic increase in behaviors that curbed their risk for HIV including:

  • condom use
  • greater selectivity
  • fewer sexual partners
  • abstinence

Johnson is still going strong and continues to raise money and awareness for HIV/AIDS initiatives.

Jade Goody: Cervical Cancer

Jade Goody
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If you're a Yankee, we'll forgive you for not knowing who Jade Goody was. Goody was a UK reality television star who was famously evicted from the Big Brother house after making incendiary (racist) comments that ignited the viewing public.

In 2008, Goody was diagnosed with cervical cancer. In 2009, Goody died of cervical cancer. Additionally in 2009, there was a spike in the number of English women receiving cervical screening (think Pap smears and HPV testing). 

This phenomenon, subsequently referred to as the Jane Goody effect, was most prevalent among women aged between 26 and 35 who lacked formal education and hailed from lower socioeconomic classes. In other words, Goody's public struggle with cervical cancer scared other young women from backgrounds similar to hers. 

In a paper titled  "The Jade Goody Effect: whose cervical screening decisions were influenced by her story?" published in the Journal of Medical Screening, 40 percent of participants replied that Goody's diagnosis had changed the way they viewed cervical cancer screening.

Katie Couric: Colon Cancer

Katie Couric
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In 1997 Katie Couric's husband, Jay Monahan, was diagnosed with colon cancer at the age of 42; he died 9 months later. In 2000, Couric raised awareness for colon cancer awareness by undergoing a colonoscopy that was taped for The Today Show

After Couric's onscreen colonoscopy, the number of Americans who received colon cancer screening spiked for a 9-month period. Guess what this phenomenon was called? The Couric effect.

Kylie Minogue: Breast Cancer

Kylie Minogue
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In 2015, Australian pop singer Kylie Minogue celebrated 10 years of breast cancer remission. Why? In 2005, Minogue was diagnosed with breast cancer and received surgery and chemo.

After Minogue shared her diagnosis with the public, there was a 40 percent increase in the number of Australian women who received breast cancer screening (think mammograms).


Article titled "The Angelina Jolie effect: how high celebrity profile can have a major impact on provision of cancer related services" by D Gareth and co-authors published in Breast Cancer Research in 2014.  Accessed on 8/13/2015.

Article titled "The Jade Goody effect: whose cervical screening conditions were influenced by her story?" by LAV Marlow and co-authors published in the Journal of Medical Screening in 2012.  Accessed on 8/13/2015.