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Jade effect

noun [uncountable]

an increased tendency for women to undergo cervical cancer screening, caused by the illness and subsequent death of British TV celebrity Jade Goody

'Worthing nurse hopes Jade effect will mean more young women are tested for cancer …'

Worthing Herald9th April 2009

According to information released by the UK National Health Service (NHS) in North Yorkshire, in the week ending 17th April 2009, 300 women in the region went for cervical cancer screening. Exactly a year earlier, the figure was only 125. This sudden, significant increase in the number of women undergoing screening is an example of what is now being described as the Jade effect.

Goody's plight seems to have assumed a particular significance because it underlined the importance of cervical cancer screening

Jade Goody, a reality TV star who rose to fame in Britain on Channel 4's popular reality show Big Brother, died on 22nd March 2009, at just 27 years of age. Goody died from an advanced form of cervical cancer, which had rapidly spread throughout her body. Whilst any such death is tragic, Goody's plight seems to have assumed a particular significance because it underlined the importance of cervical cancer screening, routinely offered to women in the UK and conventionally described as the smear test.

When news broke that Goody's cancer was terminal, medical authorities in the UK began reporting a surge in requests from women, particularly younger women, for screening for cervical cancer. This reversed a trend which had seen demand for tests fall in the past decade, particularly amongst women under 30. Galvanized by the media, this phenomenon was quickly characterised as the Jade effect.

As a result of the publicity surrounding Goody's illness, in March 2009 UK government health ministers agreed to review the NHS's policy of not offering screening for cervical cancer until the age of 25 for patients in England (in Wales and Scotland, screening is offered from the age of 20) – a further influence of the Jade effect.

Background to Jade effect

The term Jade effect is a media creation based on an emerging productive pattern in English. The X effect, where X is a proper noun corresponding to someone in the public eye, describes a tendency for people to do a particular thing because they have taken inspiration from said person X.

It all began back in the 1970s, when celebrity cook Delia Smith talked enthusiastically about a particular type of lemon zester, causing people to dash out and buy them and resulting in a nationwide shortage of the implements. This phenomenon, and similar surges in popularity of particular products as a result of TV exposure, became known as the Delia effect. However the concept did not stay confined to cookery, or Delia herself. The recommendations of successive celebrity chefs resulted in coinages such as the Jamie or Nigella effect, after Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson. US TV personality Oprah Winfrey has given us the more enduring Oprah effect, where for example Oprah's endorsement of a book can turn an unknown writer into a bestselling author.

Back in the domain of health, a forerunner to the Jade effect was the Kylie effect, an expression which hit the spotlight in 2005 when international pop singer Kylie Minogue was diagnosed with breast cancer, causing an increase in the number of women using breast-screening clinics.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

This article was first published on 20th May 2009.

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