This week, it was revealed that Jack Osbourne, son of Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne, has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), a complex neurological condition that affects 100,000 people in the UK.
We know that when a celebrity is diagnosed with a health condition it can give rise to a surge in people visiting their doctor with suspected symptoms. For example, in late 2008, Jade Goody was diagnosed with cervical cancer leading to a 50% increase in women attending cervical screening clinics. Interestingly, however, it has recently been revealed that the positive effects of a celebrity diagnosis can tail off – cervical cancer screenings are now at a 10 year low, with fewer than 80% of women attending clinics.
The sad news of Jack Osbourne’s MS diagnosis is of particular interest to Aurora as we have worked in the area of MS for many years. We will be interested to see whether there will be an increase in people visiting their GP with suspected symptoms of MS, be it fatigue, temporary loss of vision or a tingling arm.
Celebrity diagnoses’ can be a double edged sword. Whilst it is always very positive for disease awareness and early detection, it can also be a burden to the NHS due to the influx of people visiting their local GP surgeries and hospitals. It is our understanding that on the day that Jack Osbourne went public about his MS, it was one of the busiest days in history for the MS Society and MS Trust press offices.
Currently, there has already been four days of coverage on MS, with many papers, including The Sun, The Independent and The Times featuring MS case studies who conveyed the message that an MS diagnosis is not a ‘death sentence’ and how they have gone on to achieve fulfilled lives. One example was George Pepper, who now runs a successful online social network for people with MS, Shift.MS.
Has a celebrity diagnosis prompted you to head to your local GP?