Chandigarh doctors clown around - and get children smiling

By Ritika Jha, IANS
Wednesday, December 29, 2010

CHANDIGARH - Most parents dread taking their children to the doctor. The combination of white coats, medicines and injections is enough to transform even the most angelic toddler into a shrieking tantrum-throwing brat. But doctors at a hospital here have come up with a novel solution to this problem - they dress up as clowns!

Every week, children and their parents at the Advanced Pediatrics Centre (APC) of the Post-graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) here are greeted by ‘Mr Ha Ha’ and ‘Ms He He’ - as the clown doctors are called.

And suddenly, waiting at the out-patient department (OPD) doesn’t seem so stressful any more.

“My daughter recognises them at once. She kept on talking about the clown doctors throughout our way back home when I had taken her there for a routine check-up last month,” Ritu Batla, who brings her eight-year-old daughter Chaksu to the hospital for epilepsy treatment regularly, told IANS.

Doctors at the APC, in collaboration with the NGO Childline, have come up with this technique to do away with what is called the the ‘white coat syndrome’ - the phobia among children when they see white coats worn by doctors.

So, the doctors and paramedic staff dress up as clowns and try to administer the most effective medicine known to man - laughter.

Conceptualised by the APC’s paediatricians Bhavneet Bharti and Prabhjot Malhi about four months ago, the activity has received an encouraging response. The kids start treating the doctors as their friends and start chatting and playing with them.

“Children tend to get more cooperative with the doctors and medical assistants as the colourful attire of the clown doctors cheers them up. Even the parents don’t mind waiting when such interesting things happen around them,” Bhavneet Bharti told IANS. She herself dressed up as a clown on the first day of the activity in August this year while attending to the little ones in the OPD.

The clown doctors take inspiration from a study conducted by the Childline service here which says that laughter therapy works well in curbing the onset of diseases and ailments in children too.

The event is carried out at least twice every week - Monday and Thursday - but the doctors are planning to increase the number of days.

The APC gets over 8,000 children every month in the OPD. On peak days, the number goes up to 500 patients per day.

“Mr. Ha Ha and Ms. He He often wear cartoon masks and carry soft toys and balloons with them. Even puppet shows are held, with the puppets decked up in bright colours to please the little patients,” Bharti said.

While most children respond well to the clowns, some younger ones tend to get scared.

Being the first to launch such a programme in the city, members of Childline service in Chandigarh are looking to introduce the concept in other hospitals as well.

“With some hospitals in big cities like Bangalore and Delhi undertaking similar activities for the entertainment of kids, the concept of clown doctors is not new in India. PGIMER is the only hospital in the region where the doctors are being involved in this kind of treatment,” Childline centre coordinator Smita Gupta told IANS.

(Ritika Jha can be reached at

Filed under: Child Health, Epilepsy, Medicine

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