A 36-year-old Israeli named David Barashi is a professional medical clown who travels around the world cheering up ill children. He previously worked with orphans in Ethiopia and tsunami survivors in Asia. He holds a degree in medical clowning from Haifa University. Presently, Barashi is in Nepal working with doctors and nurses there to help cheer up sick Nepalese children before they head into surgery as part of a program run by the Israeli Embassy, Arutz Sheva reported. By training Nepalese doctors and nurses in medical clowning, Israel hopes to improve the health of Nepalese children, who require special care as they go into surgery.
Studies have demonstrated that medical clowning programs can significantly reduce the pain and fears suffered by patients in hospitals. Over 10 years after the Robin Williams movie “Patch Adams” told the real-life story of a doctor who believed humor should be major part of patient care, Nepal has discovered that medical clowning can have a real positive effect on patients, Agence France Press reported. Barashi asserted, “Everyone can take something from the clown. When you are in a hospital, you shouldn’t just see the sick and the painful side of the patient; you should see the healthy side, the side that wants to be a kid. We all have a child inside of us and clowning in hospital is about empowering childhood.”
Nepal is one of the poorest countries on the planet. The average person in Nepal earns less than $1.25 per day. In 2007, the Nepalese government endorsed health care as a basic human right in their interim constitution, supposedly introducing a policy of free treatment for the poorest and most vulnerable members of Nepalese society, the Daily Times reported. Nevertheless, development agencies report that nearly one in four people in Nepal still have no access to even basic health care.
According to Adam Levene, the deputy chief of the Israeli mission in Nepal, “Employing doctors can be an expensive business so teaching existing staff new tricks is a way of getting value for money. Research had shown that pre and post-operative medical clowning could yield up to 30 percent quicker recovery rates, with the effect particularly accentuated among children. The training uses what is defined locally as ‘funny’, not what is defined as funny in Israel.”
One of the main purposes of medical clowning is to get the medical staff to be more sympathetic to the plight of child patients. According to Barashi, “I’ve been working in hospitals more than 10 years and I’ve seen doctors and nurses that just don’t look fresh. We clowns also can get very tired and nervous about other things in our lives but when we put on our costumes we feel fresh. You see a nurse that has been working in a hospital for 20 years and after she has been on the program suddenly you see a child. She starts to play.”
By Rachel Avraham
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