If ‘you don’t know jack about MS,’ Jack Osbourne is here to help.
In a recent video, reality star Jack Osbourne sits on a comfy brown chair inside in a dimly lit room accented with a burning fireplace. Classical music plays in the background.
“Oh, hello. I didn’t see you there,” he says, before explaining, “we’re going to be taking a journey to the origins of MS research. Jump aboard and let’s go travel time.”
The video is one of the latest in a series of webisodes created by Osbourne for his You Don’t Know Jack About MS campaign.
Now in its fifth year, the campaign was created along with Teva Pharmaceuticals and focuses on sharing information with people who have a new diagnosis or are living with MS.
“We try to humanize the experience for people,” Osbourne told Healthline. “We don’t root ourselves in research. We take the research and hard fact-based evidence that others have done and have proven to be true and we put a human face to it, whether it’s through my story or other people’s stories or educational videos that are easy to understand.”
That’s exactly what he does in the 5-minute long webisode, The 150 Year History of MS with Jack Osbourne. In the video, Osbourne looks back at how our understanding of MS has changed since 1868 when the disease was officially classified by professor Jean-Martin Charcot, who Osbourne notes was also the first to diagnose the condition in people.
Throughout the video, Osbourne talks about other developments of MS throughout history, including those of Dr. James Dawson, who in 1916 released a detailed description of MS as well as changes in lesions caused by the condition.
But why does he present the information in the form of a history lesson? Osbourne’s personal journey with MS sparked the idea.
In 2012, after experiencing optic neuritis (an inflamed optic nerve) and several months of pinching and numbness in his legs, Osbourne was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS). While he experienced permanent damage to his right eye, he currently lives symptom-free.
He said understanding how MS treatment has evolved over time strikes a chord with him — and he’s a bit of a history buff as well.
“History is the only subject in school that I was any good at,” said Osbourne. “I love telling stories. I think it’s really important. Stories give you an idea of where we’re going to go from where we’ve been and I’ve never really seen anything that was breaking down the history of research into MS, especially as it pertains to the last hundred years or so.”
With his campaign team, Osbourne came up with a concise explanation of what the last hundred years plus have looked like “in an easy to digest, somewhat lighthearted way to tell something that is kind of intense,” he said.
In all aspects of Osbourne’s campaign, including the webisodes, he said he strives to present humor and lightheartedness.
“I have to keep things kind of comical as best as possible because I think without that, all is lost,” he said. “If I can find a way to lift myself up through the process, I think maybe other people will get a little excited about it and not so depressed as far as what we’re talking about.”
He also believes that the best way to educate is through comedy.
“Some of the most educational, fact-based shows on TV now are delivered through comedy. Not that I’m a comedian in any sense, but keeping things light and funny definitely helps people retain information,” Osbourne said.
While he acknowledges that his sense of humor isn’t for everybody, he believes it grabs attention.
“My sense of humor is pretty dark. I make pretty dark somewhat inappropriate jokes because I guess I like to make people feel uncomfortable at times. I also like seeing my mother squirm when I make jokes about having MS,” he said with a laugh. “But really, I think keeping it light makes me and others feel better about what we’re going through and leaves people with a little hope.”
In fact, hope is something he has lots of, noting that he believes researchers will figure out a way to turn off autoimmune disease during his lifetime.
“We are getting so close. We’re screaming ahead and living in a time where we will see huge changes. There seems to be a breakthrough every couple of months as far as research goes or a new treatment coming to market or understanding of genetics,” said Osbourne.
“Think about it. Five years ago, there was no treatment for progressive MS. Now there is. They used to tell you that diet and exercise can’t do anything for MS. Now they’re saying it does. It’s a really an exciting time for the community.”
Osbourne plans to produce more webisodes and educational information as part of his campaign. He says other ideas are in the works, too, including potentially holding an event.
“The great thing is we’ve grown every year and figured out a way to work through things we didn’t know and understand. I think we’ve changed with the landscape of MS in the last 5 years. I don’t think we’re going to run out of ideas any time soon, which is a great place to be,” Osbourne said.
He’s proudest of his latest idea coming to life — placing educational handouts in doctors’ offices.
“I always wanted to create a platform where doctors can send [their patients] the moment they get diagnosed,” said Osbourne. “Now our pamphlets have been cleared to be placed in doctors’ offices [and those can] direct new patients to our website full of information and educational content that’s easy to digest. That was always my goal.”
Cathy Cassata is a freelance writer who specializes in stories around health, mental health, and human behavior. She has a knack for writing with emotion and connecting with readers in an insightful and engaging way. Read more of her work here.