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Dr. Ruster—New Muppet on the Street

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Sesame Street,” the renowned children’s television show, has been a leader in the genre of entertainment-education since its launch in 1969. Although the program has remarkably managed to keep some of its original characters central to the storylines until this day, there have also been numerous additions to the Muppet cast over the past forty years. One of the latest examples of a “new Muppet” is Dr. Ruster, an orange Muppet who is appropriately dressed in a physician’s white coat and teaches Muppets—and children—basic health facts.

Dr. Ruster’s main goal is to educate young audience members about healthy eating habits and sets examples through the actions of other Muppets. For instance, Cookie Monster is told to reduce his cookie intake while Ernie and Bert dine on apples and carrots and take up healthy exercise regimens like jumping rope. Segments containing Dr. Ruster also contain information about the merits of foods like bananas and cauliflower and salad.

The character of Dr. Ruster was the brainchild of Dr. Valentin Fuster, a cardiologist (heart doctor) at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan. Dr. Fuster started working with Sesame Workshop six years ago to create a character that could teach children about eating healthy. According to Dr. Fuster, the targeted group was youngsters of about age five, a time period where little ones pay attention to everything and can subsequently be taught to change their behaviors and create long-term good habits.

Dr. Fuster’s project (aka Dr. Ruster) was first launched in Colombia because the U.S schools that were initially approached were reluctant to take on the project. The character was a hit in South America and is now scheduled to be introduced to North American audiences. A third of U.S children and teens are overweight or obese so the need for a character like Dr. Ruster is clear. The American Heart Association was so pleased with the “Dr. Ruster Project” that they even mentioned it at their annual conference as one of the year’s top achievements in heart disease prevention programs!

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