Sesame Workshop wants to make healthcare less scary

Internal research has revealed that marginalized communities face challenges when it comes to visiting the doctor—and we look at how the nonprofit company has created a custom content strategy to help.
March 23, 2023

Sesame Workshop is aiming to demystify healthcare for kids and start them on a path towards forming routines to take better care of their bodies and minds. 

In partnership with healthcare company Quest Diagnostics, the nonprofit company has produced English- and Spanish-language resources featuring Sesame Street characters that are designed to teach kids about staying healthy and prepare them for doctor visits. 

Sesame Workshop built the content package to spotlight the inconsistent access to healthcare that kids and families from low-income, rural and marginalized communities face. Quest, a New York-based company, provided a grant to create these resources as part of its ongoing Q4HE initiative. It was set up in 2020 to address healthcare disparities for underserved communities across the US and Puerto Rico.

While anxiety is a common response for children (and some adults) to an impending doctor’s appointment, Sesame’s research found that families from more marginalized communities sometimes face added challenges.

“They may not see the same provider or may not feel they can voice their needs,” says SVP of US social impact Jeanette Betancourt. “Any way we can reduce the anxiety of a visit has the potential to improve the quality of it and [have a] greater impact on children and families.” 

The nonprofit’s team spoke to parents, caregivers and experts who support these communities to inform the development of its tools, says Betancourt. “They’ve seen increased rates of chronic health conditions and risk factors, and expressed that there was limited information easily available on how children can grow and stay healthy during everyday moments.” 

Featuring a video, a digital storybook, a game and printables, Sesame’s resources address this gap by showing both kids and families how to make the most of healthcare visits and maintain a healthy routine. 

In a video short called I’m Listening, Rosita visits the pediatrician with her abuela (grandmother) to teach viewers the importance of communicating with caregivers and doctors about health-related matters. The online storybook Hooray for Healthy Teams takes a different approach to make doctors and the healthcare system seem more accessible, by featuring characters talking about the roles that families, doctors and nurses play in helping kids stay healthy. 

Sesame then lets kids play the role of a doctor in an Elmo and Abby’s Check-up Play Date video game that’s now available on its website. The goal of this simulation is to build trust in what can often be an anxious experience, Betancourt notes. In addition, a series of printable guides advises kids on how to prepare for doctor visits, including tips and activities to feel calm.

The resources launched this week on Sesame’s official website, and the nonprofit is partnering with organizations such as the Council on Black Health, National Alliance for Hispanic Health, National Association of Community Health Centers and The Center for Indigenous Health to distribute them.

Making the content more accessible to the communities it’s trying to reach, Sesame is also dispersing them to teachers, healthcare professionals and social workers as part of its Sesame Street in Communities initiative.

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