How Columbia’s “Hip Hop Doc” Is Raising Stroke Awareness


In an article in Scientific American’s “Talking Back Blog” published yesterday, writer Gary Stix highlights the work of Columbia’s Dr. Olajide Williams, who has developed a public health campaign that uses hip hop music to teach children to identify stroke symptoms:

Olajide Williams, chief of staff of neurology at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, but better known nationally as the “Hip Hop Doc,” devised the [Hip-Hop Stroke program] in collaboration with the National Stroke Association, drawing in rappers such as Doug E. Fresh to help get the word out. “The highest risk for stroke is among blacks,” Williams says. “Blacks have the highest incidence. They have the highest mortality. It’s really hard to design programs that address this issue in black communities. The Hip-Hop Stroke program is very culturally appropriate for addressing it.”

With funding from the National Institutes of Health, Williams is now building on the earlier research to spearhead a randomized controlled trial of hip-hop. The study will involve 3,000 pupils in New York City schools, some to be exposed to the program, others exempted to a control group, in an attempt to compile gold-standard evidence of the effectiveness of hip-hop as a teaching tool for stroke prevention. If effective, similar programs might be set up in school districts nationwide.

Dr. Williams has published papers in Neurology and Stroke which, as Stix notes, “have documented that the chanting of the hip-hop artist can be an effective pedagogic tool.”

Watch Dr. Williams and Elizabeth Cohn, RN, DNS, assistant professor at the Columbia University School of Nursing, talk about the Hip-Hop Stroke Program.

Hip Hop Public Health: National Stroke Awareness Month