A unique collaboration of health advocates across the country — including a Disney Junior celebrity and a local health educator — united in a nationwide tour to promote healthy living and well-being.
Disney Junior’s “Doc McStuffins’ DocMobile Tour” visited nine cities from Boston and New York to Los Angeles and Phoenix in August and September to promote both health, fitness and nutrition and the premiere of the show’s second season.
The popular “Doc McStuffins” cartoon series shares the imagination of Dottie McStuffins, a six-year-old African-American girl who runs a clinic for stuffed animals and broken toys out of her backyard playhouse. The program promotes good health and compassion.
“It helps children overcome their fear of going to the doctors,” says Donna L. Hamilton, M.D., MS, chief wellness officer with East Stroudsburg’s Manifest Excellence, a health promotion and education company. “That’s one of the main things we have heard some parents say. Not only have their children stopped being afraid of going to the pediatrician, many enjoy going to the pediatrician as a result of watching Doc McStuffins.”
Kids along the “So Much You Can Do…to Take Care of You!” tour route brought their toys in for a checkup in Doc’s Mobile Clinic, a 27-foot mobile unit decorated with images of “Doc McStuffins.”
“At the event, the children do interactive activities, music to sing, dance to, a little fun physical activity,” says Dr. Hamilton, a former board certified pediatrician who retired her white coat and stethoscope and now speaks nationally about holistically improving health. “There are educational stations and activities that include things like healthy eating and staying hydrated if you are out in the sun. There are a lot of medical stations where they can do exams on their stuffed animals, pretend that they are the doctors.”
For the interactive tour, Disney partnered with members of the Artemis Medical Society, an organization of more than 2,900 real-life women physicians of color from around the world who formed their group after seeing a reflection of themselves in “Doc McStuffins.”
“Disney invited us because we are actually real-life Doc McStuffins,” says Hamilton. “It helps children see that she is not a only a character on TV but is a real-life inspiration, especially to girls, who can see that they can become doctors, scientists or engineers — whatever it is they want to do when they grow up. We are real-life examples of that.”
The DocMobile tour meshed perfectly with part of Artemis’ mission.
“On a short-term, I hope that it does continue to encourage children to take good care of themselves,” says Hamilton, an Artemis member. “It’s never too early to take good care of yourself. The long-term hope is that more girls go into medicine or other careers in science, math or engineering.”
That hope also reflects part of Disney’s goals for the tour.
“Our goal for The Doc Mobile tour was to give kids the opportunity to be part of Doc’s world, while delivering fun experiences that reinforce the health, nutrition and nurturing messages that are core to ‘Doc McStuffins,’” says Richard Loomis, senior vice president and chief marketing officer with Disney Channels Worldwide.
A young mother shares those goals but had a more personal goal in mind when she created the character.
“For me it was really a show that was for my son,” says Chris Nee, Doc McStuffins’ creator and executive producer. “He was in and out of the doctor’s office quite a bit because he had asthma. At the most basic level I was hoping that it would be not as scary for kids to go to the doctor’s. We have certainly seen that the show has helped to ease those fears and make kids more familiar with what happens if they go to the doctor’s office.”
Nee’s personal experiences created both a great story-telling opportunity in a fun way for kids to learn.
“The best way to deal with the doctor is to make sure you don’t have to in the first place,” she says. “So we wanted to make sure that the show had a very strong underpinning of healthy living, eating well and exercise. I am always looking for a show that teaches about friendship and community and shows a bunch of fun and great characters being good to each other.”
While Nee’s son fueled her inspiration, she also wanted to reflect an underserved, untapped market as a female character with strength and compassion.
“I felt like we had enough boys who were the leaders of the pack and smartest kids in the room, and I really wanted to make sure that was a girl and that we got to see the kid who was the ultimate fixer in a group be a girl,” she says. “We have seen that there was a group of kids who maybe weren’t seeing themselves on TV as much as they could and by giving them great role models, it has been able to generate a brand in and of itself, which is fantastic.”
Nee also enjoys the unexpected extension of her creation as real-life women physicians of color stepped forward as role models.
“We are just so lucky that the show seems to have found an audience and a fan base that means the kids want to come out and experience the show and get a chance to learn more about how they can take care of themselves and use the show as a tool to do that,” she says. “We have been really lucky to have Artemis Society join us. It’s really just been wonderful for them to join us on the tour and be able to show what the real-life Doc McStuffins looks like, if you could hope that your character would be a role model and be aspirational for kids watching them. What could be better than actually showing a group of women doing what we all expect the doc will do? For us it has been wonderful for them to have them join us on our tour and give kids that extra level of learning.”
The tour ended in early September, but the effects of the collaboration linger.
“I hope that other business owners, whether small or large business owners, see that this is a wonderful example of the power of collaboration,” says Dr. Hamilton, who sees the collaboration as both personally and professionally rewarding. “It’s an example of how three different segments of business can work together and collaborate for a fantastic event. I hope other businesses can look for opportunities to collaborate and not just within our immediate community but possibly around the country.”