Celebrities Who Care About Healthcare and Say So
Recently, comedian and late-night host Jimmy Kimmel spoke out about the close call he had with his newborn son, who was born with a congenital heart defect. Recognizing that his son was lucky that he happened to have parents who could afford to pay for immediate and future surgeries he'd need to survive, Mr. Kimmel made a heartfelt statement about the plight of those who are not so fortunate, saying that nobody should have to watch their child die if he doesn't have to.
Mr. Kimmel's speech was touted for days for its sincerity and emotion, not only by the media, but by politicians as well. But will it make a difference in healthcare reform? The jury is still out.
Celebrity Healthcare Campaigns
- Katie Couric famously underwent an on-air colonoscopy three years after her husband, Jay Monahan, died of colorectal cancer in 1997. Her advocacy made a difference. After her on-air screening, according to an Archives of Internal Medicine study in 2003, the number of people undergoing colonoscopies rose. More recently, Couric has spoken out about her struggles with Bulimia, in an effort to help young women suffering from the condition.
- Elton John champions the AIDS cause in honor of the many friends he's lost to the disease. He established the Elton John Aids Foundation (EJAF) in 1992, and hosts a "White Tie and Tiara Ball" annually to raise funds for it.
- Angelina Jolie underwent a double mastectomy in early 2013 after testing positive for a BRCA1 gene mutation. She went public with her story and genetic testing, predictably, doubled, not only here in the U.S., but worldwide, soon after. Interestingly, the effect lasted for 5 months following her article explaining her decision.
- Pro basketball player, "Magic" Johnson, retired from the L.A. Lakers back in 1991, due to his HIV diagnosis. Since then, he's established the Magic Johnson Foundation, and advocates continuously for health education and community-based programs focused primarily on HIV and AIDS.
- Michael J. Fox, has long been a celebrity spokesperson for Parkinson's Disease. The Back to the Future star was diagnosed with the disease himself in 1991, and in 2000, founded the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research.
All of these celebrities have put their fame to use to help promote awareness and raise money for illnesses that have affected them directly, or have stricken family members and/or friends.
Liberal academy award-winning documentary film maker Michael Moore doesn't shy away from politically charged issues. In fact, they're his claim to fame! His 2007 documentary film, "Sicko", highlights the many problems and inequities in the current U.S. healthcare system, emphasizing the plight of everyday people here in the U.S., and comparing our system of health with countries around the world such as France, the U.K., Canada and notably, Cuba. Moore more than drives his point home that among the world's industrialized nations, the U.S. is the only country that doesn't offer some form of universal healthcare.
He's since spoken out via media interviews about his feelings regarding the ACA (he believes it's a step in the right direction), and his utter dismay at the Republican-sponsored ACHA. Admittedly, Moore appeals mainly to a liberal audience, although his documentary may have swayed some centrists toward the idea of universal healthcare or a so-called "single payer system".
It's apparent that celebrities who put their names (and fame) behind a particular health care cause contribute to increased awareness. Their overall success, however, generally depends upon how many people are big enough fans to care about their opinions regarding the healthcare causes they're promoting.
It also matters whether what they're promoting is sound, scientifically. For example, Jenny McCarthy, for a while, became the face of the anti-vaccination movement since she argued that a vaccination may have been what caused her son's autism. Of course, the connection between vaccinations and autism has been proven false time and again, but because she's famous, she arguably influenced many parents to forgo vaccinating their kids. She's since reversed her position, but some say the damage has already been done.
You might argue that it's too bad that Americans trust their healthcare decisions to celebrities, but in the end, their involvement seems to do more good than harm!