It’s no secret that childhood obesity has become an epidemic in the U.S., and a particular problem among inner-city children. According to a recent government study, “obesity rates are highest among non-Hispanic black girls and Hispanic boys.”
It’s become so prevalent, the White House launched the “Let’s Move!” campaign in 2010 to inspire children (and their parents) to eat better and, well, move, with a goal of cultivating healthier lifestyles.
But even before “Let’s Move,” there was Olajide Williams, M.D.—better known in Harlem as the “Hip Hop Doc”—who founded the Hip Hop Public Health Education Center at Harlem Hospital five years ago with some seed money provided by GE. The program began as a series of health awareness programs that used rap music to teach pre-adolescents about strokes, and has since expanded to include healthy eating and exercise education, including seminars packed with hip-hop, dance and “Fat Albert”-like cartoons—minus the “fat,” of course.
On Thursday at New York’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Williams and his team hosted the third annual Hip Hop Public Health Summit, hosted by legendary rapper and human beat-box impresario Doug E. Fresh (who is probably best known at the moment for being the inspiration for the popular dance craze “Teach Me How to Dougie”).
Williams, Fresh and a slew of special guests—including Public Enemy’s Chuck D., Run DMC’s Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, White House executive chef Sam Kass and a pint-sized 7-year-old Michael Jackson dance impersonator—celebrated the release of “Hip Hop Health Vol. 1,” a compilation of educational rap songs for kids which cover a wide-range of health issues, including “Stroke Ain’t No Joke,” “Exercise and Be Calorie Wise” and “Go Slow Whoa,” a song that groups foods into easy-to-follow stoplight commands.
Listen to a sample of “Go, Slow, Whoa” from Hip Hop Health Vol. 1:
The Hip Hop Health crew now visit 12,000 New York City school kids a year, with the help of GE, New York City councilwoman Inez Dickens (to whom the album was dedicated) and the Hip Hop Doc himself.
“Hip-hop was such a huge thing in our lives, but we never learned how to use it properly,” Fresh told the audience of about 200 (mostly) parents. “I think we’ve figured it out with Dr. Williams.”
Outside the performance space were “Go,” “Slow,” and “Whoa” stations, where foods falling into each of those categories were on display.