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Web Exclusive: Hip hop music with a health message

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(CNN) - Health experts are always looking for creative ways to fight childhood obesity. Now, a hip hop legend and a neurologist are teaming up to use music to deliver a healthy message to kids. It's been so effective First Lady Michelle Obama is making it part of her national 'Let's Move' Campaign. 

 
This event has all the makings of a hip hop show, an energetic MC, music, dancing and a neurologist.
 
"This is just as much of a surprise for me as it is for everyone who knows me that I ended up doing work like this," says Dr. Olajide Williams.

His name is Dr. Olajide Williams. The program he developed in conjunction with legendary rappers is called hip hop public health.  It uses the beats and the allure of hip hop to do something revolutionary in the public health sphere-- get kids in the inner city to make healthier choices.

"Music is an extremely powerful medium. I mean great poets have described music as being the bridge between heaven and earth, but I see music as the bridge between health education and the streets," says Dr. Olajide Williams. 

The centerpiece of the interventions in schools and summer camps -- clever videos. The videos show traffic lights about healthy food selection, using a traffic light analogy.

"Yes I do get involved." "Whether I'm sitting down with Chuck D and I'm explaining the traffic light food model, whether I'm sitting down with Doug and I'm giving him a mini tutorial on stroke," says Dr. Olajide Williams. "And then there's usually a back and forth process until I'm happy and they're happy and when we find that balance, because you know I might want to put in words like anosognosia to the rap."

Hip hop public health began nearly a decade ago as a partnership between Williams and one of the fathers of hip hop, Doug E. Fresh. They started with something that made sense for a neurologist: stroke. They say the program worked. Kids were recognizing symptoms and saving lives.

"That's when I really said to myself, well you know if it can do this within stroke, then potentially other content areas," says Dr. Olajide Williams. 

One of the most pressing health problems in inner city communities is obesity. Cool is key, say Williams and Doug E. Fresh to get through to this population. This video is about exercise followed by a set of beats. Breathe before the beats are up, you're exercising too hard.       Don't breathe at all, you're not exerting enough.  Take one breath, you're at the ideal level. A complex concept called anaerobic threshold made palatable for young people.

"It's using hip hop in a positive way and then also the kids go home and they're so excited about it that the parent has to get into it, you know.  They're like play that, play that song, let me hear that! you know let me see that video," says rapper, Doug E. Fresh. 

Now, hip hop public health is going national. An album, produced in conjunction with Michelle Obama's Partnership for a Healthier America releases today, September 30th. It includes more genres, more songs to make being healthy-- cool! 
 
Dr. Williams and Doug E. Fresh are hoping to distribute the new album to schools nationwide, along with an exercise program -- free of charge.

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