Why We Love Celebrities with Diseases

flickr: lifescrip

According to the American Diabetes Association, 25.8 million children and adults in the United States—8.3% of the population—have diabetes. So why is it such big news that Paula Deen, Food Network’s Queen of Southern Cooking, may have it to? I was listening to a business news channel today when they reported the rumor–business news, not entertainment news.

A report in The Daily on January 13 credits the National Enquirer with breaking the story back in May. Hashtags.org reported a spike in Paula Deen hashtags around 5 pm on Saturday, January 14, and the Twitterverse has remained active since.

CBS news followed up with a story on January 13 that explored the rumors that not only did Deen have the disease, but she also inked an endorsement deal with Novartis. Not so according to the article. (And as of this post’s writing, Novartis hasn’t tweeted a response to the rumor or addressed it on their website. In fact, they haven’t tweeted since the story broke on January 13.)

The Huffington Post reported the story in their January 16 food section. And as of this writing, Paula Deen’s own site and her Twitter account reported nothing except a new recipe for Sweet Merlot Beef Stew (with an ingredient list that starts off with 4 slices of bacon!).

Why all the hype?

So why all the hype?  Why do we love to hear about celebrities with diseases?

There are several reasons. The first is that it reminds us that celebrities are human, like us, and vulnerable, like us. It reminds us that all the fame and fortune in the world can’t buy good health.

For the media, it gives them a newsworthy angle to explore a disease that impacts more than 25 million people nationwide.

And for those of us in healthcare, it raises the education platform a notch higher, the voices of prevention a little louder, and clears the clutter to enable us to address a disease that, in just one year, contributed to the death of more than 230,000 people and impacted the lives of nearly 2 million more who were newly diagnosed.

So although it may not be good journalistic practice to spread an unconfirmed rumor about a celebrity, for those of us in healthcare, I say step up to your social media platforms and use that rumor to educate. The timeframe is small, but the opportunity is big.


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4 replies
  1. Jean Kelso Sandlin
    Jean Kelso Sandlin says:

    Thanks for the comments Erick and Jason. Great to have colleagues who recognize social media as a resource. And Jason, you’re right re: reliability. There is so much questionable content on the web, I’m an advocate for credible healthcare outlets to involve themselves with curation…boosting credibility and reliability.

    Reply
  2. Jason Boies
    Jason Boies says:

    There’s nothing wrong with reacting to mainstream news regarding celebrity health with informative content on the disease/condition in question. Like you say Jean, it’s a great opportunity to raise awareness of not just the disease but of the best social media sources for RELIABLE information on said disease. Cheers – Jason Boies – Radian6 Community

    Reply

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