Media constructions of Jade Goody's cervical cancer
On the 22nd of March 2009, reality television star Jade Goody died from cervical cancer at the age of 27 years. Her seven-month battle with cancer attracted world-wide attention and huge media coverage. It has been suggested that her legacy to public health will be a more educated public about cervical cancer, particularly among ‘hard to reach’ groups of women who default on screening and vaccination services. This project examines whether the huge media interest and newspaper coverage of Jade Goody’s cervical cancer translates into useful educational information about cervical cancer and its prevention. We found that few newspaper articles included information that might make women more aware of the signs and symptoms of or risk factors for the disease, or discussed the role of the human papillomavirus (HPV) and the recently introduced HPV vaccination programme to reduce the future incidence of cervical cancer. The 'human interest' aspects of Goody's illness (her treatment, the spread of her disease in later months, her wedding, and her preparations for her children's future) were more extensively covered. This focus on her personal tragedy may encourage women to be receptive to HPV vaccination or screening if her story acts as a reminder that cervical cancer can be devastating and fatal disease in the longer term. It was funded by the MRC's Population Health Sciences Research Network and the findings have been used to highlight the connections between media coverage of public health issues and health-related behaviour at public talks.