December 5, 2021

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COVID-19: Disney’s preschool special gives health tips to kids

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Doc McStuffins special, “The Doc Is In” on Disney Junior. December 2020. Courtesy of Disney Public Relations.

Disney Public Relations

Disney Junior’s beloved preschool doctor, Doc McStuffins, never misses rounds with her young audience, and during the COVID-19 pandemic is no different.

Doc McStuffins has a new special, “The Doc Is In,” that demonstrates well-advised habits, including hand hygiene and staying hydrated, that help kids stay healthy any time, but are especially important during COVID-19.

Using engaging songs and interacting with real children, families and medical professionals, Doc delivers age-appropriate messages about the steps that kids can follow for good health.

“(Doc) teaches basic lessons to empower children to take care of their health,” said Dr. Myiesha Taylor, an emergency medicine physician who is on screen with Doc McStuffins.

Taylor said the lessons help kids learn that they need to be active participants in their health, and that some things are in their control, even when it feels like nothing is during the pandemic.

Doc McStuffins character

“Doc McStuffins” was created by Emmy Award-winner Chris Nee, and the show has won countless awards for quality children’s television and NAACP Image awards, and assisted the World Health Organization in making global public service announcements.

Doc is an African American little girl who aspires to be a doctor like her mother, both presenting role models for the viewers, which helps normalize that women of color are doctors.

“She makes my real job in medicine easier,” Taylor said. “When I walk into an exam room, because of Doc, it’s not so weird to children or their parents that the doctor can be a Black woman.”

McStuffins provides medical care for broken toys and ailing stuffed animals, with “made up” diagnoses that are carefully crafted to reflect real afflictions in language understandable for their target audience of children, ages 2 to 7.

For example, Lenny the toy fire engine was moving slowly after he ran out of water and Doc diagnosed him as having “driedouttatosis,” to encourage kids to drink plenty of water to stay well hydrated.

In the series and the special, Doc and her toy friends sing “Wash Your Hands,” which includes the line “scrub your hands as long as it takes to sing this song,” to teach kids the time needed for hand washing.

Real doctors and nurses

Taylor, an African American native of Southern California now practicing in Texas, has been a part of the show since early in its production. She’s the founder of the “We Are Doc McStuffins” movement,” after discovering the show with her then five-year-old daughter.

“I was so excited to see the show that I wanted to tell all of my friends,” said Taylor, “…and to let Disney know how positive and important this role model is.”

Taylor said only 2% of physicians are Black women and she posted a collage of her Black female doctor friends on social media and Disney liked it. In homage to Taylor’s efforts, the show’s creators name Doc’s mom, Myiesha.

Taylor also started the Artemis Medical Society to connect Black female physicians as mentors with young minority girls interested in medicine and science, as well as to support each other.

Taylor said Doc McStuffins has the appeal of a cartoon character with being friendly, charming and fun, and the medical lessons are useful, but it’s the representation that she truly values.

“I like the diversity,” said Taylor, “Doc is changing the image of what it means (to see others) in different spaces.”

In the special, the registered nurse is an Asian male, Mark Lee, who joins McStuffins to provide tips to avoid spreading germs.

To ensure that the messages about health are accurate, the show’s writers and creators consult with the Hollywood Health & Society, a division of the USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center.

“Hollywood, Health & Society helps entertainment content creators ensure the health topics they’re addressing are accurate and easily understood for their audiences. For kids and adults, accurate and sensitive depictions can raise awareness, and encourage healthy choices and safer practices,” said Kate Langrall Folb, director of HH&S.

“The Doc Is In” premieres Dec. 4 at 7:30 p.m. ET/PT on Disney Junior, coinciding with National Handwashing Awareness Week.

“Doc McStuffins is a role model for taking good care of oneself and others, “ said Joe D’Ambrosia, Disney Junior’s senior vice president and general manager, “With this new special, we hope to empower our young viewers by highlighting simple actions they can take in order to stay safe and healthy.”

Reporter’s Note: While studying journalism at USC, I did an internship with HH&S and I had the opportunity to consult on scripts for Doc McStuffins. I’ve continued to volunteer with HH&S and I am one of the consultants for the special, “The Doc Is In.”

This story was produced with financial support from The Stanislaus County Office of Education and the Stanislaus Community Foundation, along with the GroundTruth Project’s Report for America initiative. The Modesto Bee maintains full editorial control of this work.

To help fund The Bee’s children’s health and economic development reporters with Report for America, go to bitly.com/ModbeeRFA

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ChrisAnna Mink is pediatrician and health reporter for The Modesto Bee. She covers children’s health in Stanislaus County and the Central Valley. Her position is funded through the financial support from The Stanislaus County Office of Education and the Stanislaus Community Foundation, along with The GroundTruth Project’s Report for America initiative. The Modesto Bee maintains full editorial control of her work.

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