Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Article Comments (2)

Is It Tacky To Blog About Celebrities?

I’ve been wrestling for some time about whether or not it’s appropriate to blog about celebrity news (particularly health issues). On the one hand it seems like an invasion of privacy – what gives me the right to speculate on their health? Shouldn’t I leave the poor celebs their privacy, hen pecked as they are by the media? Yet, on the other hand, when the country is abuzz about an important health issue, there is a “teachable moment” in which doctors can perhaps influence patient lifestyle choices for the better, or encourage some preventive screening if needed.

I did decide to blog about Heath Ledger’s sad passing, and thought it might be important for people to know about autopsies and how they work. Although I had mixed feelings about the post, it was one of my most popular in a long time. So that led me to conclude that I shouldn’t shy away from celebrity news. Nonetheless, I confessed my squeamishness to a friend of mine, and his answer was so insightful that I thought I’d share it with you:

The other way I think
of it is this:  health is really personal.  Almost everyone who writes about
health does it from the perspective of a personal story – the most common health
blogs are health blogs by patients / survivors about their own experience, the
next most common is by doctors talking about patients.  You could have written
yesterday’s entry [Heath Ledger] about the death of a friend or a patient under unknown
circumstances.  The problem is that a blog that begins every time with, “I had a
friend who had ALS…” is very concrete to you – you know the friend – but not
concrete to the reader – they don’t know your friend.  The use of celebrities
creates a shared vocabulary – people we all “know” that we can converse about.

Put another way, in an
era before blogs, where health conversations were held around kitchen tables and
over the back fence, there was probably less discussion of celebrity health
because the discussants all shared a common stock of people about whom to chat:
Doris down the street has breast cancer; Trudy two doors down has a pregnant
teen; Francine on Maple Street has a mom with Alzheimer’s.  The internet and
blogs are an attempt to create a similar conversation with people all over the
country – the planet – who don’t know any people in common.  Celebrities are the
only folks we can all discuss, because they are the only folks we all

What do you think? Is it ok to blog about celebrities? Should I do more of it? Less of it? Does my friend have a point? Please share your thoughts.This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at

You may also like these posts

    None Found

Read comments »

2 Responses to “Is It Tacky To Blog About Celebrities?”

  1. tstitt says:

    When the celebrity has made a clear commitment to communicating to the general public about a specific healthcare issue in the context of news or an event, I hope you will blog about the celebrity and the issue. To me a clear commitment means public statements directly from the celebrity. Otherwise, I think that celebrities are entitled to the same privacy protections regarding healthcare that the rest of of enjoy. Good example: Dosing error at Cedars Sinai involving Quaid family leading to greater awareness about need for checklists and programs to prevent dosing harm. Bad example: “Dr.” Phil and Britney.

  2. Erik Freund says:


    You are truly a blessing to all of us – You made yourself perfectly clear, you can do anything if you put your mind to it – Definitely talk more about Celebrities anytime you want

Return to article »

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

Read more »

How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

Read more »

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

Read more »

Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

See all book reviews »

Commented - Most Popular Articles