Child Life Series: Healthcare Project Established in Cape Town
By Lea Levy
Connect-123 is assisting the largest paediatric hospital in South Africa to institute a Child Life Specialist program, an integrated child health delivery system which has the potential to greatly enhance the paediatric health care services offered at the hospital.
Child Life Specialists use therapeutic and recreational play in order to reduce the fears and fantasies that children associate with the unknown hospital environment. Separation from parents, the unfamiliar environment, procedures and equipment as well as pain, all create anxiety within children who feel threatened by what they do not understand. Specialists also provide emotional support to families who may unwittingly transfer their own stress onto the child.
The idea of Child Life was introduced to hospital staff and management by Bobbi Jo Pansier, a Child Life Student from the University of Wisconsin-Lacrosse and will be extended with a the assistance of a Caroline Hargrave, a volunteer from Wheelock College. A pilot study will be run by Connect-123 volunteers in Cape Town between Feburary and May 2009.