Bioethics Blogs

Creative Minds: Do Celebrity Endorsements Influence Teens’ Health?

Marie Bragg

Marie Bragg is a first-generation American, raised by a mother who immigrated to Florida from Trinidad. She watched her uncle in Florida cope effectively with type 2 diabetes, taking prescription drugs and following doctor-recommended dietary changes. But several of her Trinidadian relatives also had type 2 diabetes, and often sought to manage their diabetes by alternative means—through home remedies and spiritual practices.

This situation prompted Bragg to develop, at an early age, a strong interest in how approaches to health care may differ between cultures. But that wasn’t Bragg’s only interest—her other love was sports, having played on a high school soccer team that earned two state championships in Florida. That made her keenly aware of the sway that celebrity athletes, such as Michael Jordan and Serena Williams, could have on the public, particularly on young people. Today, Bragg combines both of her childhood interests—the influence of celebrities and the power of cultural narratives—in research that she is conducting as an Assistant Professor of Population Health at New York University Langone Medical Center and as a 2015 recipient of an NIH Director’s Early Independence Award.

Bragg is currently exploring the influence of popular culture and celebrity endorsements on individuals’ eating habits. Ultimately, she wants to learn how advertisements for unhealthy, high-calorie foods and beverages—and their tendency to target African American and Hispanic teens over other groups—might play into well-established disparities among racial groups in the incidence of obesity and diabetes.

Bragg set out on this research path as a graduate student at Yale University, New Haven, CT.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.