In Chengdu, laughter is the best medicine

Authors: Source: Shanghai Daily


With bulbous red noses, colorful curly wigs and exaggerated makeup, a group of 40 medical workers in Chengdu, capital of the southwestern province of Sichuan, bring smiles and laughters to patients.

By dispensing hope and humor, these medical clowns lift the mood and inject vitality into wards.

A medical clown training center, jointly launched by Israel and China, was established at Sichuan Provincial People's Hospital on Monday.

The 40 doctors and nurses in Chengdu will learn from the world's leading professional medical clowns this year.

Amir Lati, Israel's consul general in Chengdu, said his country is a world leader in medical clowning. In Israel, the profession is serious business. Israel set up the world's first clown care course at the University of Haifa in 2006.

When we are entertained, laughing especially, the brain releases more endorphins, which can help relieve pain, and produces more leukocytes, which help the immune system, according to Lati, adding that medical clowns have been proven to help the healing process.

The trainee Chinese medical clowns will be taught medical care, psychology, physiotherapy as well as magic tricks, puppetry and acting by the Israeli practitioners.

Avital Dvory is a medical clown from Israel. She said that behind the smiles and jokes, it can be a stressful job.

"Every year, lots of medical clowns quit as they can't handle the psychological pressure," she said.

About 80 percent of medical clowns treat children, including some who are terminally ill. "When they smile at me, I can still see the pain inside," Dvory said.

When I first started clowning, I would often cry after work, she said.

Lati said medical clowns also help during treatment after training. For example, they may perform magic tricks to distract children's attention when they are having a blood sample drawn.

In the future, clown care will be extended from children to adult patients, said Lati. The medical clowns in Chengdu were selected from hospitals across the province.

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