Posted by editor 28/05/2013 0 Comment 3697 views


 By Figen Gunes

What do you do if you are a kid with schizophrenia? The doctors can’t quite explain. Mum finds it difficult. Medikidz will introduce you to a superhero comic. He will explain.

Five energetic Medikidz superheroes vow to show children what illnesses all about while making them giggle through comic books. Larger-than-life heroes take children on a journey through Mediland – an outer space planet shaped just like the human body – to explain the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of different medical conditions.

Two entrepreneurial female doctors left their careers to set up the world’s first medical education company Medikidz for children. It took off like wildfire when the company was set up in 2009. Their mission was to help young people understand about illnesses and their health in their language and at their level.

Dr Kate Hersov(on the right) and Dr Kim Chilman-Blair(on the left) rolled up their sleeves after they witnessed the fear of diagnosed children not knowing much about what they were going through. During their time as doctors, they even had a young patient wet themselves out of fear while waiting for a painless health scan, an incident Kate says that could have been easily avoided if that child had been able to understand what was about to happen.

Mother of three Sheikha Omar  from Manchester burst into tears when she first heard about Medikidz. Her six-year old son suffers from epilepsy and she feels the NHS doctors are not doing enough to inform her son about his health conditions. “Will I die mum?” is the heartbreaking question Sheikha hears from her son after the boy’s classmates say this at school. The 44-year-old single former accountant has chosen to study so she can start her own business so that she can be available for her son whenever he needs her.

Sheikha said: ‘Most parents are in denial about their children’s health conditions and it’s difficult to accept your child’s long term illness. Doctors are not helpful to explain young patients about their illnesses which lead to growing fear among children as well as families. Doctors believe children are too young to learn but this is wrong. Medikidz is a brilliant initiative and Kate is a true entrepreneur who wants to transform society.’

AFBI asked Dr Hersov how Medikidz works.

AFBI: How do you engage young people?

The comic book format really has been the key to our success. It is a medium that spans age range and culture and is brilliant also in helping those with low literacy. By the extensive use of graphics, the books teach them visually.

The most important thing in education is engagement, especially for young people. If they don’t find something engaging, they are not going to learn from it. That’s why Medikidz has had such success – it breaks down barriers and children think it’s cool! It’s not a boring textbook, pamphlet or a lecture.

AFBI: How many different types of books do you provide?

As well as the 50 current comic book titles on paediatric conditions such as epilepsy, scoliosis, leukaemia and cystic fibrosis, Medikidz have also produced titles relating to adult conditions, so that a parent or loved one, when faced with a diagnosis, has somewhere to turn to for an explanation. Medikidz has distributed 2 million comic books so far, into 50 different countries!

AFBI: What age group do you educate?

Medikidz is intended for 8 to 15 -year-olds. Medikidetz is a new series we are starting for those aged 5-7.

AFBI: Have you introduced the educational comic books to the NHS to reach a wider range of young patients?

We did approach the NHS at the conception of Medikidz, however money was an issue for them. They didn’t feel health education was a priority.

AFBI: If the books have not been provided by the NHS, how do you make sure it reaches children from less privileged backgrounds?

We have health industry partners such as Novartis, Philips and Becton Dickinson who support us in distribution of the Medikidz resources to NHS doctors free of charge. This ensures clinicians and nurses can use Medikidz as tool with their young patients and families.

NHS doctors from Great Ormond Children’s Hospital and many others are also involved in peer reviewing our books.

AFBI: Do you think the NHS has been doing enough to prevent illnesses?

I think prevention of illnesses is a very challenging issue and preventable illnesses are one of the greatest burdens on the health care system. The incidence of conditions like obesity, type two diabetes and heart disease can be reduced through awareness and engaging education. The fact that these diseases are rising rapidly in our society means not enough is being done to promote a healthy lifestyle.

The exact figures spent by the NHS on treating what could be preventative illnesses would be interesting to see. I am sure it’s a very large amount. More emphasis should certainly be placed upon helping educate people to make healthier lifestyle choices.

AFBI: What are the future strategies to expand Medikidz further?

We are moving towards more digital content. Accessing young people through their mobile phones and computers is our aim. We are looking into creating animations of all our content and developing games, so that young people can learn about their health through having fun!

Books will be still available because they are a great tool for health practitioners in the clinical setting but we want to help revolutionise the way young people interact with their health and manage their conditions – these days you have to be digital to do that!

AFBI: Are you involved in any charitable work?

We set up the Medikidz Foundation shortly after the main company was incorporated. The drive is to distribute books free of charge in the developing world. Through the foundation, together with The Global Fund, we distributed 150,000 books on HIV in Swaziland, Africa. They were so well received. We have also published ‘Medikidz Explain Malaria’ and will look to do one on TB soon too I hope.

We believe that every child deserves access to medical information they can understand. We are creating a global community of young people who are informed, empowered and health aware!










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