The Bowelbabe legacy: how celebrities can impact health awareness
Celebrities who share their treatment journeys, like Dame Deborah James and Adele Roberts, can raise awareness of health conditions. Using Google data, Laura Rudd of No Brainer examines their impact.
Running to Google with health queries might not be as counterproductive as we think / Clare Mueller
Today, celebrities have the power to raise awareness of important health issues like never before. Data has shown that when celebrities share their personal experiences of a condition, it can lead to a significant increase in online searches for information about that condition.
We can see the influencing power in the cases of Dame Deborah James and Radio 1 DJ Adele Roberts, who both openly discussed their bowel cancer diagnoses in the media and across their social profiles.
After their stories came to the fore, there were massive spikes in Google searches for more information about bowel cancer, especially during key moments in James’ and Roberts’ treatment journeys.
The power of search
Following Roberts’ bowel cancer diagnosis in October 2021, there have been on average 15,000 Google searches a month from people searching for information about her experiences with the condition (searches for ‘Adele Roberts bowel cancer’). When she shared her experiences on BBC Breakfast on March 28th, there was an 80% increase in searches for information about the cancer on that day.
The impact of Dame Deborah James sharing her story is also indisputable. Following her passing, Google searches for information about bowel cancer have increased by five times, reaching the highest level in the past five years during the week she passed away.
Her documentary Bowelbabe led to a 63% increase in searches for bowel cancer online, with over 6,500 searches on the day of release – a 29% increase compared with the previous week.
It’s clear that when influential people like James and Roberts share details of their diagnosis and treatment journey, it can positively influence online behavior, driving people to search for information about particular health conditions.
Likewise, the charity Bowel Cancer UK sees a significant increase in traffic to its own website when celebrities share their personal experiences of bowel cancer.
But it's not just about the numbers. The bravery and openness of celebrities during such difficult times should also be recognized. Their willingness to share their stories has changed perceptions and behaviors around bowel cancer, making it easier for others to talk openly about the disease and to seek medical help.
Using platforms for good
Celebrities are not the only ones who can raise awareness of health conditions. Organizations like Bowel Cancer UK play a crucial role in educating the public about the risks and symptoms of bowel cancer. However, when celebrities use their platforms to amplify these messages, it can have a significant impact on the public's understanding of a disease.
In short, celebrities have the power to change lives when they speak out about health issues. By sharing their own stories and experiences, they can inspire others to seek help, talk more openly about diseases like bowel cancer, and ultimately save lives.
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