A Disney Star’s Health Struggle Raises Awareness of NLM and NIH

Health is a very private matter, but when a celebrity decides to share a health journey, it can create new ways of understanding a disease.

Benjamin King, an actor on the Disney Channel show “Liv and Maddie,” wanted to do just that, and the free, consumer-friendly NIH MedlinePlus magazine, which highlights research supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and for which NLM provides editorial guidance, provided the perfect vehicle.

King, who plays Coach Rooney, the lovable dad on the popular show, was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2010. Since then, helping raise awareness about Crohn’s and encouraging children diagnosed with the disease have played big parts in his recovery.

The cover of the Winter 2016 issue of NIH MedlinePlus Magazine showing Benjamin King“There is hope,” King said in his NIH MedlinePlus cover story. “Life gets better, and there are many options that can help you. I am not a physician, but I do believe for children, there will be a cure in their lifetime.”

Part of finding that cure involves the important work of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) Division of Digestive Diseases and Nutrition, which supports research into digestive conditions. NIDDK is a component of the National Institutes of Health.

And part of raising awareness about Crohn’s means getting King’s story and NIH’s important work out there.

Benjamin King stands with his arm around Denise Dador.

Benjamin King with KABC-TV health reporter Denise Dador.

NLM’s Office of Communications and Public Liaison took on that task, using the magazine to captivate interest and to share details with KABC-TV health reporter Denise Dador in Los Angeles, where King lives. That interest led to a TV news segment with King and his doctor discussing Crohn’s symptoms and the importance getting proper treatment.

Since then the story has been picked up by ABC stations in New York, Philadelphia and numerous other cities. In addition, The Huffington Post ran its own piece on King in its Healthy Living blog.

King’s work to raise awareness isn’t stopping, however. He remains active with the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, and he continues to engage with and encourage fellow Crohn’s patients. “I have been receiving so many emails and social media interest from people living with Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis. Both kids and adults really appreciate me sharing my story. From the bottom of my heart, I thank the National Library of Medicine for providing this outlet and service.”

Video still from the television interview with Benjamin King

Benjamin King’s interview with ABC-7 brought attention to Crohn’s disease.

By Adam Shapiro