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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 November, 2003, 11:56 GMT
Dr Dan - the next Bob the Builder?
By Caroline Ryan
BBC News Online health staff

The Dr Dan cartoon
Dr Dan with Sally the Stethoscope
Children have grown to love Fireman Sam, Postman Pat and Bob the Builder.

But a team of doctors and lawyers are hoping children will grow to love a new character.

They hope they will take Dr Dan - and his friends Beep the Thermometer and Sally the Stethoscope - to their hearts.

The cartoon, which recently won the Medical Futures Best Innovation in Health Communications award, has been designed in an attempt to take away some of the mystery about what a doctor does.

The aim is that children will not be frightened of going to the GP's or the hospital.

Beep blushes red when someone isn't well, and Wink the Eye Chart winks at everyone as they walk through the door.

The team all had children aged under three when they devised the cartoon character.

'Bravery stickers'

One of those behind the cartoon is the GP Dr Eoin O'Sullivan.

He told BBC News Online: "We've all got young children.

The Dr Dan cartoon
The cartoon is aimed at under-sevens
"We realised that there were lots of adult medical programmes, but no child-specific programmes like Bob the Builder or Postman Pat.

"There was nobody that was a doctors' Fireman Sam."

He added: "We thought it would make it be less scary for children to go to the doctors if they could identify with characters such as Dr Dan."

Around 10 storylines have been devised, and some images of Dr Dan and his friends have been drawn up.

The team now need funding to develop the cartoon series.

Some of the storylines they have devised are set in a GP's surgery, others are set around the village where Dr Dan and his friends live.

If the cartoon did become a popular TV series, the team hope Dr Dan could be featured on health leaflets, education videos which show children simple medical checks such as having their temperature taken.

We're really trying to make things less scary from a child's point of view
Dr Veronica Kinsler
The cartoon character may have a website, where children could find out about conditions and healthcare.

Dr Dan could even appear on "bravery" stickers which could be given to children after hospital treatment.

'On their side'

Dr Veronica Kinsler, a paediatrician at Great Ormond Street Hospital who has also worked on "Dr Dan" said: "We're hoping the cartoon will help assuage children's fears.

"Paediatricians spend their time trying to put things into child-friendly terms, trying to get them to do things that aren't very pleasant.

"We think Dr Dan would be like having an ally for them, like having someone on their side.

"We're really trying to make things less scary from a child's point of view."

She said: "The initial TV programme would be entertainment, then we could use the character for more educational things."

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