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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Almost famous

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Theresa May lost some weight and found herself subject to so much scrutiny about doing so that she went public about her diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes. For a long time now, Stephen Fry has spoken openly about suffering from bipolar disorder and the several suicide attempts he has made since he was 17 years old. Angelina Jolie openly revealed her decision to have a double mastectomy on the basis of her increased risk of breast cancer due to her family history. The list goes on…

I imagine that there are still a lot of people who don’t particularly like going to see a doctor when something is wrong with them. This is worrying, as we’re all aware that the earlier a potential problem is detected, the more likely it is that it can be resolved. Whilst I’m not one to pry, it’s for this reason that I’m pretty pleased that so many celebrities have come forward about their health issues.

Take for example what is now known as the ‘Jade Goody effect’; Jade Goody was a young woman in the public eye with a young family who was diagnosed with cervical cancer which she later died from. Despite the tragedy, the NHS’ cervical cancer campaign welcomed the subsequent increased awareness and change in attitude to cervical screening that resulted from her very sad and public illness.

I’m certainly not the first person who has picked up on the benefits of making use of society’s love of celebrity culture to promote better attitudes towards health and wellbeing. In the BBC programme Long Live Britain aired earlier this month Julia Bradbury, Dr Phil Hammond and Phil Tuffnell joined forces to present a simple, informative and effective show on Britain’s ‘secret killers’ – type 2 diabetes, liver and heart disease. By roping popular names into the show and following them after they had been checked over by Dr Hammond, I think that the trio’s attempt to raise the public’s awareness may just have worked a treat.

And it’s not just the scary stuff that celebrities can raise awareness about; they can also have a positive effect on the nation’s health-related behaviour. After all, it’s not enough for us to speculate about what latest high-street outfit the Duchess of Cambridge will wear next. No, we also want to know about whether or not she’ll choose to breastfeed. Breast is best? Whilst primary care professionals have been saying so for years, it is in fact Kate who will be the decider of that, and the statistics suggest that the rest of us will, probably, follow suit.

Chantal Cox-George will blog from the perspective of a medical student interested in general practice. Use the hashtag #nextgenerationGP to join in the conversation and follow her @NextgenGP

Readers' comments (2)

  • Enthusiasm is good!

    But... earlier diagnosis may be a good thing in some circumstances, but this doesn't always mean that screening is good. See http://www.ganfyd.org/index.php?title=Screening .

    And celebrities can be very useful; but only if what they do is useful. They can also be very damaging - e.g. when high profile celebrities coming out to support antivaccination pressure groups (Carol Vorderman and Juliet Stevenson both campaigned against MMR vaccination, for example).

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  • Yes - I remember being very disappointed in Juliet Stevenson( have seen her live and she is a fabulous actress darling!) appearing in a drama about the life of Andrew Wakefield and was very supportive of his work.

    Overall, I think celebs are likely to cause more damage than harm

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