Poonam Pandey’s fake death announcement on social media has sparked debate on the role of celebrities and influencers in public health. The incident raises questions about the reliance on momentary acts of insanity to create awareness about diseases like cancer. It also raises concerns about the accountability and social responsibility of influencers, who often offer false advice without proper consultation with professionals. It is crucial to hold these individuals accountable to prevent further harm.
Poonam Pandey became a topic of conversation on social media due to her fake announcement about her death recently. Poonam Pandey is said to be a Stage 4 terminal cancer patient. Hence, the fake report of her death, which has been called a pathetic publicity stunt, has insulted the daily struggles of millions of cancer patients and their families. The public health and policy professional who has spent her professional life attempting to create awareness about public health issues and alleviate societal stigma can say with great confidence that awareness is not generated by trending on social media platforms for a few hours or days. It requires persistent and dedicated effort by all stakeholders (government, corporates, civil society, media, citizens) at every level.
The incident raises two broader questions: are we dependent on such momentary acts of insanity to create awareness about a disease like cancer? Most of us have either experienced this disease personally or through a family member, friend, or colleague. The International Agency for Research on Cancer estimates that around one in five people develop cancer in their lifetimes. One in nine men and one in 12 women die from the disease. Cancer Research UK had previously estimated that 1 in 2 people in the UK will develop cancer in their lifetimes.
If anything, this unfortunate incident should be a moment of serious introspection and wake up call for all stakeholders. If we are relying on Poonam Pandey for cancer awareness, we have a problem on our hands, and a big one at that at that
The second key question is how can we ensure greater accountability and social responsibility of celebrities and ‘influencers’? Undoubtedly, social media is a tremendous platform for reaching out to millions of people. However, while Poonam Pandey has taken things too far, there have been several instances in the past too. If people actually follow the ‘advice’ offered by such ‘influencers’, it can be to their detriment. Frequently, ‘influencers’ will offer cures to diseases like cancer or diabetes through unproven remedies lacking a rigorous evidence base. Such false promises can distract patients from seeking proper medical advice or even interfere with their treatments.
A large number of so-called ‘influencers’ neither have any technical training nor a lived experience of dealing with the health related issues they preach about on social media. Even if an individual has had a lived experience of say cancer or depression, they cannot give medical advice to another patient. They can, at best, share their own experience of what worked and what did not.
While regulations can and must come into play, influencers, brands, and agencies managing them also need to be socially responsible. It is equally important for every citizen to not follow any health or medical advice offered by an ‘influencer’ without due consultation with qualified professionals. We must also hold these ‘influencers’ and celebrities accountable else the likes of Poonam Pandey will keep wreaking havoc on social media platforms to further their selfish interests.
Poonam Pandey has been a topic of discussion on social media due to the fake announcement about her death. This incident has insulted the daily struggles of millions of cancer patients and their families. Public health and policy professionals argue that awareness is not generated by trending on social media but requires persistent effort from all stakeholders. The incident raises questions about the dependence on momentary acts of insanity to create awareness about diseases like cancer. Additionally, it raises questions about the accountability and social responsibility of celebrities and influencers. Influencers often offer false cures without rigorous evidence, distracting patients from seeking proper medical advice or interfere with treatments. Regulations can help, but influencers, brands, and agencies must also be socially responsible. Citizens should not follow health or medical advice without consulting qualified professionals and hold influencers accountable to prevent further harm.