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IU study: Death of public figures provides important opportunities for health education
Date:4/21/2014

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- An Indiana University study of reactions to the 2011 death of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs suggests health communicators have a critical window of opportunity after a public figure dies to disseminate information about disease prevention and detection.

The study, involving a survey of 1,400 adult men and women, found that immediately after Jobs' death, more than a third of survey participants sought information about how he died or about cancer in general, and 7 percent sought information about pancreatic cancer, the disease that took Jobs' life.

Lead author Jessica Gall Myrick, assistant professor in the IU School of Journalism, said 7 percent may seem low, but if applied to the U.S. population as a whole, it would constitute a significant number -- more than 2 million people -- who would have chosen to educate themselves about a specific type of cancer.

"In the medical community, there has been a big push to try to educate the public about the nuances of cancer," Gall Myrick said. "It's not just one disease; it's a lot of different diseases that happen to share the same label. Celebrity announcements or deaths related to cancer are a rare opportunity for public health advocates to explain the differences between cancers, and how to prevent or detect them, to a public that is otherwise not paying much attention to these details."

One unexpected result of the study is that racial minorities and people with fewer years of education were more likely to identify with Jobs, and to follow up and seek further information about pancreatic cancer after his death.

"Because there are large racial disparities in the incidence of many cancers, much focus is on such populations," the authors wrote. "Unfortunately, the population of individuals who may need cancer education the most often seek out cancer information the least -- especially particular low-income and racial minority populations for whom cancer
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Contact: Jessica Gall Myrick
jgmyrick@indiana.edu
812-856-7380
Indiana University
Source:Eurekalert  

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