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A Randomized Controlled Trial of Hip-Hop

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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There’s a brand new dance that’s sweepin’ the nation

by the National Stroke Association …

… For those who can dance and clap your hands to it…

One arm as you slur every word you speak.

Imitate like you’re paralyzed and weak…

Walkin’ funny … stagger unsteady.

Stand in a line and pretend that you’re BLIND…

Loss of vision is one of the very first signs!

A twisted face will show that you’re ready.

To do that dance that they call the STROKE!!

Ice pick headache. IT AIN’T NO JOKE

 

At first, this hip-hop ditty may itself seem like a joke in exceedingly poor taste, making fun of the deadly symptoms of the leading neurological disorder and fourth cause of death in the U.S.

But these lyrics, intoned by real-life rapper Doug E. Fresh appearing as a character in a comic book distributed to scads of minority students in New York and more than five other U.S. cities, have proved remarkably successful as a prop for a public health campaign based on the rhyming cadences of hip-hop. Encompassing subgenres like gangsta rap, whose lyrics are studded with the kind of racial pejoratives that make life difficult for celebrity chefs like Paula D, hip-hop, in this other guise, has started to join the ranks of what physicians and public -health experts like to call “evidence-based medicine.”

Brain Attack Awareness Day at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center

Academic papers in august, peer-reviewed journals—Neurology (American Academy of Neurology) and Stroke (American Heart Association and the National Stroke Association)—have documented that the chanting of the hip-hop artist can be an effective pedagogic tool. It conveys to elementary schoolers the signs that a parent, neighbor or passerby is suffering from what is cogently described as a brain attack. This research has also tried to ascertain to what extent children can teach parents about symptoms. Stroke is highly treatable if a victim reaches the hospital within four and a half hours.

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 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.

If that happens, the whole country may be rapping the mneumonic:

F is for the Face.

A is for the Arm.

S is for the Speech.

T is for the Time.

Time to do what?

Call 911

 

 

 

 

 

About the Author: Gary Stix, a senior editor, commissions, writes, and edits features, news articles and Web blogs for SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN. His area of coverage is neuroscience. He also has frequently been the issue or section editor for special issues or reports on topics ranging from nanotechnology to obesity. He has worked for more than 20 years at SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, following three years as a science journalist at IEEE Spectrum, the flagship publication for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. He has an undergraduate degree in journalism from New York University. With his wife, Miriam Lacob, he wrote a general primer on technology called Who Gives a Gigabyte? Follow on Twitter @@gstix1.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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