SNF Brain Insight Lecture – How Hip Hop Stroke Empowers Children

November 14, 2016

NEW YORK – On November 10, Columbia University neurologist Dr. Olajide Williams discussed “Hip Hop Stroke,” his award-winning, elementary school-based health education program that gives children in under-resourced communities the tools they need to respond when a loved one suffers a stroke.

Among those in attendance were co-Director of the Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute Thomas M. Jessell and Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) representatives including Chief Financial Officer Vasili Tsamis. Dr. Williams described the program’s innovative approach that includes using music to reduce the burden of stroke in minority communities.

Dr. Williams is the Chief of Staff/Chief Medical Officer of the Department of Neurology at Columbia University Medical Center and Director of Acute Stroke Services at New York Presbyterian’s Comprehensive Stroke Center.

He is one of the world’s leading stroke experts and community health education innovators. He is also the Founder and President of Hip-Hop Public Health, the nonprofit organization behind “Hip Hop Stroke” that uses music to improve health literacy in under-served communities.

In the coming year, Williams will conduct free stroke awareness programs for the West Harlem community in a specially designed Wellness Center in the Jerome L. Greene Science Center on Columbia’s new Manhattanville campus.

The Wellness Center will also host community-based initiatives to promote mental health as well as free cholesterol and blood pressure screenings.

The lecture is part of the SNF’s Brain Insight Lecture series, offered free to the public to enhance understanding of the biology of the mind and the complexity of human behavior.

The lectures are hosted by Columbia’s Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute and supported by the SNF.

The lecture highlighted success of the Hip Hop Stroke program and the ways children can help their parents and loved ones in the throes of a stroke.

As Dr. Williams noted, even within economically disadvantaged, under-resourced communities, there are simple steps that can be taken to improve personal health, but often too many lack the basic knowledge, skills, and motivation to take these steps.

The Hip Hop Stroke intervention bridges the world of music and entertainment with NIH-funded research.

The informative and entertaining lecture demonstrated the importance of getting stroke patients the treatment they need in the least amount of time.

The clot-busting medication, tPA, used for ischemic strokes, the most common type of stroke caused by a blood clot, can only work within four and a half hours of the onset of stroke symptoms.

By the time many patients reach the emergency room and undergo the necessary tests, it is often too late to administer the clot-busting medication which if administered later can actually cause harm.

By teaching children in the 4th and 5th grades to recognize the symptoms of a stroke, they also transmit the knowledge to their parents and grandparents, helping the community to get stroke patients the care they need before severe disability and death can occur.

The program teaches the cardinal symptoms with the acronym BE FAST with B for balance which is suddenly lost during a stroke, E for eyes and the sudden loss of vision in one or both eyes, F for face which is uneven,

A for arm one of which hangs down, S for slurred speech, and T for time to call 911. The collaboration between the entertainment industry, teachers, and students helped to develop the clever and life-saving Hip Hop Stroke program.

Testimonials by families whose children had participated in the program and then helped a family member get the care they needed proved the importance of expanding the program.

Williams also spoke about the new Mobile Stroke Treatment Unit, an ambulance fitted with the latest technology, a CT scanner and with stroke experts on board including a neurologist to treat stroke patients immediately.

Only five such units exist in the world, four of which are in the US and one out of those four is in New York serving the communities around NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center at East 68th Street and NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center at West 168th Street.

A Q&A session followed the lecture during which Williams was asked why this specific age group was selected and not younger children or teens. He explained that the tweens had the best retention of information and were also more likely to communicate with their parents.

Williams noted that while teens retained the information as well as the tweens did, they were often “too cool” to talk with their parents about what they had learned.

The “connectedness” of tweens to their parents and their willingness to share proved that the age group was best at child-parent communication.

Williams also pointed out that healthy habits are often set by age 12 which can help prevent strokes in the first place.

Healthy eating, exercise, quitting smoking, and keeping blood pressure under control can also prevent strokes. More information about stroke is available online at nyp.org.



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