“HOUSTON, TX., and BURBANK, Calif., March 7, 2018 – Robert A. Iger, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, The Walt Disney Company, today announced an innovative plan to dedicate more than $100 million in company resources, including cash, products and services, to reinvent the patient and family experience in children’s hospitals across the globe. This initiative will roll out over five years, expanding the Company’s rich legacy of supporting children’s hospitals, which dates back to Walt Disney.“- from The Walt Disney Company Commits More Than $100 Million to Bring Comfort to Children and Their Families in Hospitals.
Child health is an area that needs a tremendous amount of investment. Around the globe, under-5 mortality is struggling to improve, especially in the lowest resourced countries in Africa, South America and Asia. So it’s exciting when corporate giants decide to give back. Disney has deep pockets, and incredible resources and connections – seeing them connect with child health has such great potential, and there are corporations around the world who may also want to contribute in meaningful ways after watching others lead the way.
I have no doubt that there has been extensive stakeholder engagement to determine what Disney as a company can offer children’s hospitals in the US. But I do question what Disney’s $100M for “children’s hospitals across the globe” will ultimately accomplish when in the US, 6.5 children don’t reach their 5th birthday – while in Kenya it’s 50, and in Mali it’s 110. As someone who works at one of a few hospitals in East Africa to have a dedicated pediatric wing (including an even more rare ICU), saying that the value of directed cash, products and services is “$100 million” seems disingenuous. In additional to customisable themed Disney rooms and RFID tracking of patients, there will also be:
“Disney customer-experience training for doctors, nurses and staff. The renowned Disney Institute… provides professional development training focused on leadership, employee engagement and high quality service.”
Kenya has 1 surgeon for every 40,000 people. Somalia has 1 per 500,000. The US, by comparison, has 1 surgeon for every 2270 people. Each of those surgeons has gone to school for at least 12 years, plus 6-8 for medical school, plus 5 years for general surgical training, with possibly 2-3 years extra for further training in a surgical specialty. I can promise you that if surgeons in any setting have the desire and time for more learning after 28 years of education, it will probably be to pursue a Masters in Public Health or Business Administration, rather than the Disney School of Magical Experiences.
$100 million over 5 years is a lot of money. If Disney really wants to give $100M, why focus on hospital window-dressing in a wealthy country, rather than helping kids survive in a needy country? There are many, many ways that this amount of social investment could be spent that would have sustained and broad impact. What if Disney used its existing expertise to:
- Set up a Disney Ambulance Network anywhere in Africa. I wouldn’t mind if it wasn’t Kenya – but pre-hospital access to care across the continent is woeful, if not nonexistent. A 5 year pilot program would have huge impact in a region where mothers die giving birth and kids hit by cars die because there is no transport to a hospital. They could be Disney themed for just mothers and kids under 5. Use Disney’s extensive RFID tracking and analytics capabilities from theme parks to get help where it’s needed, quicker.
- Give the Ministry of Health, any country’s, a team of Disney computer whizkids for a year who are able to make extraordinary animated films through merely typing letters and numbers into a computer. Ask the ministry what data they don’t have from their country, and let the animators come up with new creative ways to most easily collect it from all of their urban and rural clinics and hospitals – and then analyse it to figure out how to make the biggest impact on healthcare delivery. Disney would probably think outside the healthcare data collection box, and that’s superb, we need that. The home page, help icons and terminology can be all Disney. That’s cool.
- Work with GE Foundation or somebody to help more clinics and hospitals get oxygen. Just oxygen. That’s all. Disney could make every oxygen outlet at the bedside the mouth of literally any Disney character. I don’t mind themed oxygen if it will come out of the wall, all the time.
- Help a country develop a dedicated child protection unit building on Disney Circle technology – have a Disney Hotline that kids can access via chat on the school computer or on a friend’s mobile phone – with 24/7 Cinderella or Moana or Nala available to any kid, anywhere if they have been hurt or feel unsafe. Work on helping strengthen social services in low resource settings – Disney has child safety at the core of every theme park, we could use some more of that.
- Partner with AMHF, Watsi, G4Alliance, PECC Kenya, MSF, anyone involved in large global health networks. They’ve got some ideas. They’ll use the expertise well.
Corporate Social Responsibility is important. Disney may be trying to do the right thing. But the cynic in me sees “investing” in the customer experience in the US as pure self-promotion. “Customer service, the Disney way” will be delivered primarily to hospitals whose staff and clients are potential Disney customers, with disposable income, being recruited to the Disney corporate kool-aid at their most vulnerable (“when I was sick with cancer, Disney made me feel better because I got to choose the Moana room”). Kids in Kenya and Uganda are less likely to be seduced by Disney merchandise – and African hospitals don’t seem to be on Disney’s initial list of beneficiaries yet.
Does your business or corporation or social group participate in CSR? If the goals of CSR are “ethical behaviour that contributes to sustainable development, including the health and the welfare of society“, how do you find the biggest return for your investment? Do you ask – how can we help? Do you offer solutions that look good – or that truly fix a problem? These are great questions that I think more organisations could ask as they consider being a part of giving back.