‘Laughter is the best medicine’ | TheUnion.com

‘Laughter is the best medicine’

With high-tech equipment that screens, scans and slices or prods, pokes and prevents, Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital is launching a decidedly more low-tech approach to community health in 2013.

Working with The Center for the Arts in Grass Valley, the hospital is sponsoring the “Laughter is the Best Medicine” comedy series that kicks off at 8 p.m. Saturday, featuring the comedic star of television and stage Paul Reiser.

“Laughter produces positive emotions and brings people together,” explained Debbie Plass, RN, vice president for business development and marketing. “We wanted to counter-balance the stresses of life in a way that doesn’t entail medication, rigorous exercise or foregoing tempting desserts.”

There is evidence that laughter does have a salutary effect on general health, according to Dr. Brian Evans, medical director of the hospital’s emergency department.

“Many positive health effects have been associated with laughter and humor,” he said. “Blood sugar appears improved in diabetics who watch comedies rather than tedious lectures, blood vessels appear more healthy, and patients tend to sleep better when they have been laughing. There is even some evidence that improved immune responses are associated with humor and laughter.”

He noted that some medical professionals aren’t convinced that the evidence means that the laughter is causing better health. “But,” he said, “what’s the harm? Unless you’re literally laughing so hard that you fall out of your chair and break a hip, it’s probably worth it.”

Though she claims no medical education, Julie Baker, executive director at the arts center, suggested that “in a time when we are all overwhelmed by information, good and bad, we need to take a moment to laugh out loud. My hope is that by bringing funny, intelligent and insightful comedians to the center, we are doing something good for the community. We also hope that the community recognizes how lucky we are to have a hospital that supports our health and happiness in so many ways”

Baker said the Center and the hospital have been shaping a collaborative working relationship for several years.

“It’s about the health of the community,” she said. “They recognize that arts foster dialogue, collaboration and the opportunity for diverse groups of people to come together and share a moving, inspirational, or just enjoyable experiences.”

Kick-off comedian Reiser co-created and starred in the acclaimed NBC series, “Mad About You,” which won him Emmy, Golden Globe, American Comedy Award and Screen Actors Guild nominations. He is also a composer and musician and author of three highly acclaimed books. “Family Tools” actor and comedian Steve Hytner will open the show. Hytner has appeared in numerous films, and television shows, including “Seinfeld,” “Mike and Molly,” “Boston Legal” and “Friends.”

Comedians scheduled for the other shows in the series include Dana Carvey, Larry “Bubbles” Brown and Renee Rongen.

Information may be found on The Center for the Arts website, http://thecenterforthearts.org or by calling 530-274-8384.

All physicians providing care for patients at SNMH are members of the medical staff and are independent practitioners, not employees of the hospital.

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