Health literacy levels are low in Canada as the majority of Canadian adults lack the skills required to obtain, understand and act on health information and services. While advice on health is easily available from newspapers, TV, the Internet, social media, and, most recently, Hollywood celebrities, many in the public remain confused about what a truly healthy lifestyle entails. There is also a growing public distrust in the health care system and health professionals.

Dr. K. Kamenova will speak about social and cultural forces that shape the public communication of health science and influence health choices, particularly the role of celebrities in the promotion of health lifestyles and innovative biomedical treatments. The highly-publicized case of actress Angelina Jolie’s prophylactic mastectomy will be examined, focusing on its impact on the public understanding of cancer risks, cancer prevention, policy decisions, and the utilization of genetic testing services.

Dr. Kalina Kamenova is an Assistant Professor in the Bachelor of Arts and Science Program at Trent University, where she teaches courses in science communication, science and technology studies, and biomedical ethics. Her research interests are broadly interdisciplinary, spanning communication and cultural studies, social and political theory, deliberative democracy, bioethics, science and health policy, and conceptual, ethical and legal issues related to new and emerging technologies in biomedicine. She has published on diverse topics such as media representations of contemporary scientific and health controversies, science policy and stem cell research, stem cell tourism, public deliberation, and bioethics.