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Hip-Hop Public Health Education Center


The Hip-Hop Public Health Education Center at NYC Health + Hospitals/Harlem was established in response to a need to create innovative and culturally tailored health literacy programs for the Harlem community.

“Hip-Hop” is a music genre which strongly emphasizes rhyme and dance, and is popular among diverse socioeconomic and ethnic groups. Integrated rhyme and dance have been used as educational tools to improve vocabulary in eleventh graders and math skills in second graders enable behavioral changes in homeless children, and prevent obesity in African-American preschoolers. Health initiatives which incorporate readily learned or familiar fast-paced music and dance activities may have the most impact and could improve the potential for sustained learning. The use of hip-hop music has been suggested as a strategy for health education programs related to HIV and AIDS in adolescents and has been successfully used by our group at NYC Health + Hospitals/Harlem in partnership with the National Stroke Association to increase the knowledge of stroke warning signs and their urgency among elementary school children in the Harlem Community. Our findings demonstrated that the use of Hip-Hop music could represent a culturally- and age-appropriate method to introduce health education initiatives of any type to younger children and their family members.

The Hip-Hop Public Health Education Center at NYC Health + Hospitals/Harlem has three major initiatives:

Hip-Hop Stroke™ in partnership with the National Stroke Association™

Rates of stroke in central Harlem adults are high and an estimated fifteen percent of children are being raised by their grandparents, many of whom are at risk for stroke. Improving stroke recognition and awareness within these and other high-risk communities can increase acute stroke treatment. Targeting at-risk adults through their children may represent a novel approach to improving stroke recognition and symptom urgency in high-risk communities.

“Hip-Hop Stroke”(HHS) is an educational program developed by the National Stroke Association™ (NSA) in partnership with NYC Health + Hospitals/Harlem to teach schoolchildren key stroke care concepts and motivate them to deliver the message to their families and adult caregivers. HHS uses a culturally-appropriate curriculum with age-appropriate modules, and uses modern culture as a motivational learning tool. Along with conventional didactic sessions, HHS includes multi-media strategies, “hip-hop” music, interactive raps, and dance to deliver a clear and simple message that teaches children to recognize stroke symptoms and take urgent action. Children are also taught stroke risk reduction strategies including obesity prevention through proper nutrition and physical activity and smoking cessation. They are given take-home information packages and assignments designed to trigger child-parent discussion about stroke and enhance parental stroke knowledge.

The specific objectives of Hip-Hop Stroke are to give an interactive and fun-filled stroke education program to children in order to achieve the following:

  • To teach children to recognize the most common symptoms of stroke and act F.A.S.T.
  • To educate parents about these symptoms via their children
  • To teach children lifelong healthy habits and their relationship with stroke risk factors.

HHS proved to be an effective tool for educating young students about stroke identification and urgent action. Indeed the impressive results of our pilot program was presented at the 2007 International Stroke Conference and published in the journal Stroke (Stroke. 2008 Oct; 39(10):2809-16). Moreover, subsequent to the program, two children, one fourth grade and one sixth grade, reported witnessing sudden onset of stroke symptoms and appropriately activated the emergency medical system.

Hip-Hop Healthy Eating And Living in Schools (Hip-Hop HEALS) Program (HHH)

HHH is an elementary school-based educational program in NYC modeled on the highly successful Hip-Hop Stroke program. This program incorporates Hip-Hop music into multi-media health messaging including short animation films to enhance a didactic curriculum designed to reduce the incidence and prevalence of childhood obesity by educating and inspiring children to live healthier lives. Specific health topics include nutrition (especially caloric intake), physical activity, and healthy lifestyles. Hip-Hop HEALS is part of a larger community-wide Healthy Eating and Living program conducted by NYC Health + Hospitals/Harlem and the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce.

The Hope Support Group

The Hope stroke survivors is conducted in partnership with “Stroke of Hope,” a nonprofit national organization dedicated to improving the lives of stroke survivors. This is a stroke support group program that engages patients and their loved ones during the acute stages of their illness and provides crucial psychological and educational support throughout their hospitalization, aiding the transition to rehabilitation and finally back to the community. Once in the community, stroke survivors are supported through bimonthly group activities that include coping mechanisms, thriving strategies, self-efficacy, and empowerment.

The Old SCHOOL Project

The Old SCHOOL (S.C.H.O.O.L.: Seniors Can Have Optimal aging and Ongoing Longevity) Project is a new elementary-school based educational program aimed at demystifying concepts of aging, dementia and AD, and impaired memory. Building upon the HHS model, The Old SCHOOL Project will be comprised of rap songs and animated musical cartoons to simplify key concepts of dementia, aging, healthy lifestyle changes, and strategies to promote healthy cognitive aging. Children will be engaged as educational conduits in the home for a multigenerational approach to improving dementia health education, and will inform and affect at-risk adults within these homes through the introduction of interactive, intergenerational, culturally-tailored cognitively stimulating activities with the potential to decrease or delay cognitive decline.

Adjunct Project: Walk It Out!

The Walk It Out! program is an initiative that seeks to increase physical activity among older adults residing in Harlem being implemented by NYC Health + Hospitals/Harlem’s Healthy Eating and Active Living by Design in partnership with New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, Department for the Aging, New York Road Runners, Harlem Senior Citizen Centers, AARP, Columbia University’s City Life is Moving Bodies (CLIMB), the Harlem Neighborhood Naturally Occurring Retirement Community (Harlem NNORC) , Faith-Based Organizations and Senior Advocacy Groups in Harlem. This innovative community-based program provides comprehensive physical activity opportunities including but not limited to volunteer-led Walking Clubs, Senior Fitness Classes, Alvin Ailey Dance Workshops, and San Bao Tai Chi and Qigong Workshops. The goal is to enhance access to neighborhood spaces for physical activity and to develop informational outreach activities to promote holistic health and prevent illness among Harlem’s senior citizens. In addition to emphasizing health benefits for senior citizens, Walk it Out! promotes intergenerational activities and peer bonding. Goals of the Walk It Out! program include: 1) Creating safe walking paths in the Harlem community; 2) Establishing semi-annual community walks runs and weekly Walking Groups for seniors; 3) Providing culturally-sensitive health education materials on various topics, and 4) Establishing a collaboration with local exercise facilities. This program is supported by the New York State Department of Health’s Healthy Heart Program (HHP). For more information, visit the website: www.hiphoppublichealth.org

To contact the HIP-HOP Public Health Education Center, call 212-939-1894 or email: walkitout@hiphoppublichealth.org or WalkItOutHarlemHospital@gmail.com