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Original Investigation
July 14, 2003

The Impact of a Celebrity Promotional Campaign on the Use of Colon Cancer Screening: The Katie Couric Effect

Author Affiliations

From the Division of General Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine (Drs Cram, Fendrick, Cowen, and Vijan) and Division of Gastroenterology, Department of Internal Medicine (Dr Inadomi), University of Michigan School of Medicine, Ann Arbor; Department of Health Management and Policy, University of Michigan School of Public Health, Ann Arbor (Dr Fendrick); Consortium for Health Outcomes, Innovation, and Cost Effectiveness Studies (CHOICES), Ann Arbor (Dr Fendrick); Ann Arbor Veterans Affairs Health Services Research and Development Field Program (Drs Inadomi and Vijan); Department of Internal Medicine, St Joseph Mercy Hospital, Ann Arbor (Dr Cowen); and Departments of Political Science and Public Policy, University of Michigan (Dr Carpenter). Dr Cram is now with the Division of General Medicine at the University of Iowa, Iowa City. The authors have no relevant financial interest in this article.

Arch Intern Med. 2003;163(13):1601-1605. doi:10.1001/archinte.163.13.1601

Background  Public participation in many preventive health programs is suboptimal. While various interventions to increase participation have been studied, the impact of a celebrity spokesperson on cancer screening has not been rigorously examined. The objective of this study was to assess the impact of Katie Couric's March 2000 Today Show colorectal cancer awareness campaign on colonoscopy rates.

Methods  A population-based observational study was conducted using 2 different data sources: (1) The Clinical Outcomes Research Initiative (CORI) database—a voluntary consortium of 400 endoscopists who performed 95 000 colonoscopies from July 1998 to December 2000; and (2) 44 000 adult members of a managed care organization. Using change point analyses and linear regression models, we compared colonoscopy utilization rates before and after Ms Couric's March 2000 television series.

Results  The number of colonoscopies performed per CORI physician per month after Ms Couric's campaign increased significantly (15.0 per month before campaign; 18.1 after campaign; P<.001). After adjusting for temporal trends, a significantly higher postcampaign colonoscopy rate was sustained for 9 months. Analysis also demonstrated a trend toward an increase in the percentage of colonoscopies performed on women (43.4% before campaign; 47.4% after campaign; P = .054). Colonoscopy rates also increased significantly in the managed care organization after Ms Couric's campaign (1.3 per 1000 members per month before; 1.8 after; P<.001).

Conclusions  Katie Couric's televised colon cancer awareness campaign was temporally associated with an increase in colonoscopy use in 2 different data sets. These findings suggest that a celebrity spokesperson can have a substantial impact on public participation in preventive care programs.