Education Through Music - How Hip Hop Public Health is Making a Difference
Hip Hop Public Health (HHPH) is a New York City-based organization and collective of community educators, entertainers, and health professionals on a mission to eradicate health disparities—what the Health Resources and Services Administration defines as “population-specific differences in the presence of disease, health outcomes or access to healthcare. Compared to the nation’s population as a whole, most major disparities documented are experienced by African Americans and other minority groups. For instance, African American adults are 50% more likely to die prematurely from stroke compared to their white counterparts.”
A stroke is a medical emergency caused by a lack of blood supply to part of the brain, preventing brain tissue from getting enough oxygen and nutrients. When someone experiences a stroke, brain cells can die in minutes. Because immediate treatment is very important to reduce the likelihood of brain damage and other long-term complications, Hip Hop Public Health’s founders Dr. Olajide Williams, a neurology physician and director of the stroke center at Harlem Hospital, and Doug E. Fresh, the first “human beatbox” partnered back in 2006 with a novel approach to stroke prevention— the Hip Hop Stroke Prevention Program.
Nicknamed Hip Hop Stroke (HHS), the program goes above and beyond as an interactive experience, allowing children to learn through catchy hip-hop songs and animated cartoon videos. Hip Hop Stroke’s concept is so special because it combines prevention and knowledge in a simple and fun, yet majorly effective way— undoubtedly serving as a creative model for what public health disease prevention should look like.
Research shows that participating HHS children leave with a basic understanding of what stroke is, how it occurs in the body, how to recognize the signs and symptoms, and what to do in a stroke event. This means that as participating HHS children grow up, they are more likely to have already been engaging in positive health behaviors to reduce the likelihood of experiencing a stroke, as well as know-how to identify if a family member or someone close to them were to need help.
The real magic of HHS is in the stories shared about how the Hip Hop Stroke program has saved the lives of children’s parents and grandparents, making themselves a true staple for improving health outcomes. If you would like to find out if your school is eligible for Hip Hop Stroke, or book the Hip Hop Stroke program for a special event, please visit the Hip Hop Public Health website at https://hhph.org/. The online portal is also available for schools all around the globe and staff may register their school for the program at any time.
Highlighting Dr. Olajide Williams
Dr. Olajide Williams is a tenured Professor of Neurology and Associate Dean of Community Research and Engagement at Columbia University. He is Chief of Staff of the Department of Neurology at the Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and a global leader in health disparities and behavior change in communities of color.
Dr. Williams is the Principal Investigator of multiple large NIH investigator-initiated awards and has served on several national panels on health disparities, including the 2021-2026 National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke Strategic Planning Committee. An influential clinician-educator, Dr. Williams is a member of the Columbia University’s Virginia Apgar Academy of Medical Educators and sits on the medical school’s Committee on Education Policy and Curriculum (CEPC).
He is co-Chair of the Academy of Community and Public Service, co-Chair of Columbia University’s Medical Campus Anti-Racism Task Force, and co-director of the Columbia University Community Wellness Center. Dr. Williams has authored and co-authored several books and numerous scholarly peer-reviewed articles, including the November 2020 AHA Presidential Advisory on Structural Racism.
Dr. Williams is the founder and board chair of Hip Hop Public Health, an internationally recognized organization that works with iconic Hip Hop influencers to use art, music, and science to promote healthy behaviors, health literacy, and health equity.
He is a board member of the Partnership for a Healthier America whose honorary chair is former First Lady Michelle Obama, where he helps guide health equity-related activities.
Dr. Williams is an expert on COVID-19 vaccine acceptance in communities of color and COVID-related health disparities. He has received many prestigious international, national, regional, and local awards. These include the European Stroke Research Foundation Investigator of the Year award, two-time Columbia University Outstanding Teacher of the Year award, American Heart Association’s Trailblazer Award, and a National Humanism in Medicine award from the Association of American Medical Colleges.
Dr. Williams has been named on Fast Company Magazine’s 100 Most Creative People list, Root 100’s Most influential Blacks in America list, Advertising Age’s Creative 50 list, and consecutive New York Magazine’s Best Doctors list.
Highlighting Lori Rose Benson
Before joining Hip Hop Public Health as Executive Director and CEO, Lori Rose Benson served as Vice President of Healthy Lifestyles at the YMCA of Greater New York, spearheading all aspects of the preventative health and wellness portfolio for the largest YMCA in the United States with a key focus on health innovation, development of youth fitness programming and scaling chronic disease prevention programs to meet the diverse needs of New York City’s communities. Lori was the principal architect of the award-winning Y-MVP Teen Fitness Challenge.
Raised in Brooklyn, Lori attended New York City’s public schools and earned a B.A. from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in Communications and Graphic Design, and an M.A. in Physical Education from Adelphi University in Garden City, NY, where she is currently an Adjunct Faculty member in the Department of Exercise Science, Health Studies, Physical Education and Sport. Lori personally embraces physical activity and her love of music into her daily life as a yoga enthusiast, an aspiring DJ, and a spinning instructor who still teaches weekly cycling classes at Crunch Fitness in Brooklyn.