iStock/ThinkstockBY: DR. JOHANNA KREAFLE
A recent study from the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio shows that participation in the Make-A-Wish program may give children better quality of life and reduce hospital visits and healthcare costs.
Patients who received a wish were 2.5 times more likely to have fewer unplanned hospital admissions and 1.9 times more likely to have fewer unplanned emergency department visits compared to patients of similar age, gender, disease category, and disease complexity who would also quality for a wish but did not receive one.
What is the Make-A-Wish Foundation?
The Make-A-Wish Foundation is a non-profit organization whose goal is to provide children aged three to 17-years-old who have progressive, life-limiting, or life-threatening medical conditions, with experiences known as “wishes.” These wishes include “I wish to…” “go,” “be (someone for a day),” “meet,” and “have” (i.e. receive gifts.) The foundation is funded by contributions from individual donors, corporations, and other organizations.
What are the goals and mission of the Make-A-Wish Foundation?
The Make-A-Wish Foundation “serves a unique, and vital, role in helping strengthen and empower children battling illnesses.” And, “wishes make life better for kids with critical illnesses.”
How many “wishes” does the foundation grant?
The Make-A-Wish Foundation was founded in November 1980 and the first wish was granted in the spring of 1981 to Frank “Bopsy” Salazar, a 7-year-old who had leukemia. Bopsy had three wishes: to be a fireman, go to Disneyland, and ride in a hot air balloon — all of which were granted to him. Since then, more than 285,000 children in the United States and its territories have benefited from experiencing their wishes. The foundation granted 15,300 wishes last year alone; which means on average, a wish is granted every 34 minutes.
There is a long-held belief that receiving a wish improves a child’s quality of life and potentially improves their family’s quality of life, enhances family bonding, reduces stress, increases hope and serves as a distraction from illness.
But recent research done at Nationwide Children’s Hospital shows it may do a lot more than that. This study showed that patients who received a wish were 2.5 times more likely to have fewer unplanned hospital admissions and 1.9 times more likely to have fewer unplanned emergency department visits compared to patients of similar age, gender, disease category, and disease complexity who would also quality for a wish but did not receive one. (The study's author, Dr. Anup Patel, is a member of the Medical Advisory Council for the non-profit Make-A-Wish Foundation. A list of all board members can be found here.)
And, a higher percentage of "wish kids" achieved a decrease in healthcare costs after their wish was granted, compared to those children who did not receive a wish over the same period of time — this savings was even after the cost of the wish was factored in.

Johanna Kreafle, M.D. is an emergency medicine physician at the Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, and a member of the ABC News Medical Unit.

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