Any stay in the hospital or visit to a clinic can be tough on children and their parents, but San Diego Zoo Kids TV hopes a little fuzzy company makes it easier to handle.

The commercial-free kids program runs on televisions in 16 children’s hospitals around the country. Sanford Health’s children’s hospitals in Bismarck and Fargo, N.D., late last month became the most recent ones to offer the channel highlighting animals at the San Diego Zoo.

The idea is simple: Give children and their families a distraction. The zoo channel features a variety of fun, educational pieces about animals that children can relate to.
 "The animal might need a procedure done or talking about an illness that an animal is experiencing, and kids can relate to that themselves and what's going on in their lives," says Wendy Iwerks, a Sanford Health child life specialist.

The program “offers our patients an opportunity to feel an escape from the hospital reality,” adds Craig Lambrecht, M.D., president of Sanford Health’s Bismarck hospital. “We believe this program will be a great distraction tool, little kids particularly will enjoy it.”

The programming features a variety of animals from San Diego Zoo Global, plus footage from the Zoo’s popular Panda Cam, fun and educational pieces about a variety of animals and up-close video encounters of popular animals with the zoo’s national spokesperson.

“We have always believed in the importance of putting people in touch with animals as a way to conserve species,” says Doug Myers, president and CEO of San Diego Zoo Global. “What we have heard from medical care professionals is that animal interaction and animal stories can also help promote well-being.”

Watch a video about the program.