What The Jade Goody Effect Meant For Cervical Cancer Screenings In The UK

by Aoife Hanna
Jade Goody smiling off camera in a floral shirt in the library
David Hartley/Shutterstock

Jade Goody first rose to fame in 2002 when she appeared in the third series of Big Brother. After that, she remained in the public eye throughout her life, including when she found herself at the centre of an international racism row during her stint on Celebrity Big Brother. However, Goody's life was cut short at just 27 years old after a battle with cervical cancer; a battle that brought the condition into the public consciousness in a very big way. But what is the Jade Goody Effect, and is it still felt today?

Goody very publicly fought cervical cancer until the end of her life in 2009. The honest and revealing way in which her illness was shared with the public led to what we now know as the Jade Goody Effect. The effect describes the huge surge in numbers of cervical cancer screenings among women in the UK after Goody's diagnosis and untimely death.

As the Telegraph reports, "[t]he number of women aged 25 to 64 who underwent screening increased by 400,000 in 2008/09 from 3.2 million to 3.6 million." The newspaper also reports that then Health Secretary Andy Burnham said at the time:

''These figures show the remarkable effect that Jade Goody's tragic case has had in reversing a downward trend in the number of young women attending cervical screening. Jade's bravery and openness in her fight against cervical cancer has brought home to young women across the country the importance of regularly going for these checks."
Jade: The Reality Star Who Changed Britain/Channel 4

Sadly, though, it was just recently reported by cervical cancer charity Jo's Trust that the effect appears to have now worn off. Robert Music, the chief executive of Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust, said:

"The screening programme saves 5,000 lives each year in the UK yet 20% of women are not attending their cervical screening test. The more we can do to stress the importance of this life-saving test the better. With such a worrying decline in numbers our campaign is also targeting key cities where uptake is below the national average."

A campaign was launched by the charity this year as part of Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, known as #SmearForSmear campaign. The aim of the campaign was to spread awareness as to what a smear test is and why it's important. The hope was to ease the anxieties of people who avoid the test.

Now Channel 4 is producing a three-part documentary about Goody's life called Jade: The Reality Star Who Changed Britain. The show is sure to be an interesting insight into the reality star's life, featuring interviews from those closest to her, including her mother Jackiey Budden, the father of her child and first husband Jeff Brazier, and her second husband Jack Tweed, as well as former Big Brother presenters Davina McCall and Dermott O’Leary, according to iNews. It will also take a look at the media machine that documented Goody's rise to fame, her fall from grace, and her legacy in relation to cervical cancer and the Jade Goody Effect.

Watch part one of Jade: The Reality Star Who Changed Britain on Wednesday Aug. 7 2019 at 9p.m. on Channel 4.