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.