Autism, Menopause and More: Should Celebrities Stick to Being Celebrities or is their Medical Advice Trustworthy?
Celebrities have long talked about their various opinions on health and medicine. Kelly Preston talked about how her son Jett contracted Kawasaki disease from toxic household chemicals and her work to relieve homes of these poisons (her son was widely thought to have autism, a condition his parents believe does not exist due to their religious beliefs.) Suzanne Somers is very vocal about her methods for curing cancer (her cancer diagnosis turned out to be false) and living with menopause and life beyond (taking 60 supplements a day!) and has appeared on numerous talk shows, including Oprah Winfrey. Her books are best sellers. Since the diagnosis of her son, Jenny McCarthy has championed the connection of autism and vaccinations and wants the method (and ingredients) of vaccinations to change. Her books are also best sellers.
The University of Michigan conducted a survey of parents to see what influence celebrity medical advice or endorsements have on their own medical opinions when it comes to their children and almost one quarter reported that they somewhat trust celebrity medical opinions. While most (76 percent) relied on their doctors, many also take note of the knowledge and opinions of family and friends, while 65 percent trusted the advice of parents who believe that their own children were harmed by vaccinations. Only a very small percentage of parents (2 percent) said they placed a lot of trust in what celebrities said although that translates into one of every 50 parents.
Doctors have expressed concern over these findings. Dr. Gary Freed, Director of the University of Michigan’s Division of General Pediatrics said that “…it's terribly concerning that 24 percent of parents have some trust in information provided by celebrities,” and that he doesn’t “understand why when a celebrity says something about which they have no training, that is reported more than someone who has done rigorous scientific training.
“Celebrities are juxtaposed to medical experts as credible sources of information by the media. As long as that continues to occur, the public will continue to assume they are as credible as credible sources really are.” Read more from this report from Time’s Healthland here: http://healthland.time.com/2011/04/26/jenny-mccarthy-vaccine-expert-a-quarter-of-parents-trust-celebrities/#ixzz1KikRccQV
Freed blames the media in general for giving celebrities such a vocal platform for medical topics in which they have no formal or scientific training and worries that parents will follow the advice of models and actors rather than doctors who have years of scientific training and research under their belts. Celebrities who maintain strong and vocal advocacies for their given topic are growing – and become more influential while also becoming more controversial.
Everyone has the right to an opinion! What do you think of celebrity health “experts”? Do you trust their advice and findings or do you worry they don’t have the background and education to have such a platform? Personally? My jury is out - way out.