Disruption Index: Olajide Williams

One of 77 people, places and ideas changing cities in 2012.

Credit: Danni Sinisi

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Over the next two weeks, Next City will unroll short profiles of 77 people, places and ideas that have changed cities this year. Together, they make up our 2012 Disruption Index. Forefront subscribers can download the Index in full as a PDF, complete with beautiful designs and graphics by Danni Sinisi. Readers who make a $75 donation to Next City will have a full-color printed copy of the Index mailed to them.

Diabetes. Obesity. Asthma. These are the health problems that plague urban communities. But for health care providers, educating people about the risk factors in their lives has been a challenge. So neurologist Dr. Olajide Williams turned to an unconventional ally: hip hop. With the help of eminent hip hop artists like Doug E. Fresh and Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, Williams started the Hip Hop Public Health Network, a program that, using performance and video, teaches children about medical conditions through music. For example, the “Hip Hop Stroke” program uses music to educate children about the signs of stroke and what to do if someone around them experiences one.

But Williams isn’t expecting to create an army of pint-sized emergency responders. Instead, he’s hoping that the children will bring their knowledge into their homes to better inform their parents and grandparents — the people more likely to face medical emergencies. Over the coming year, Williams plans to take his program on the road, working with communities in cities around the country. By using hip hop, Williams has been able to engage with and educate culturally diverse groups about their health in a way that’s accessible and effective. He has also changed the paradigm of medical communication, providing a model for how to spread health practices across cultural boundaries and, potentially, transforming the way knowledge is shared in diverse urban communities.

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Nate Berg is a writer and journalist covering cities, architecture and urban planning. Nate’s work has been published in a wide variety of publications, including the New York Times, NPR, Wired, Metropolis, Fast Company, Dwell, Architect, the Christian Science Monitor, LA Weekly and many others. He is a former staff writer at The Atlantic Cities and was previously an assistant editor at Planetizen.

Tags: health2012 disruption index

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