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CAH, Hip Hop Public Health Expand Vaccine Outreach with CDC Grant

Thanks to a COVID-19 Supplemental Grant form the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Center for Adolescent Health and HeartSmiles are teaming up with Hip Hop Public Health to make sure Black families in Baltimore get vaccinated.

As part of the grant, CAH will also work with the JHSPH International Vaccine Access Center, Baltimore City Public Schools, and the Baltimore City Health Department to understand the rate of COVID-19 vaccine uptake in Baltimore’s Black families – which make up 63 percent of Baltimore’s population.

“We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Hip Hop Public Health, HeartSmiles, the Hopkins Vaccine Center, and our other partners on this project,” said Center for Adolescent Health Director Dr. Tamar Mendelson. “We’re excited to train young people as health ambassadors and develop a multi-generational website that families can access for accurate and engaging information about the COVID vaccine.”

The partnership will use the Youth Health Ambassadors model developed by Hip Hop Public Health as an entry point to educating Black families on the COVID-19 and encouraging them to get vaccinated. It will include a website that will expand to be a health resource for Baltimore’s families.

The grant – which CAH was eligible for as a CDC Prevention Research Center – allows the Center, HeartSmiles, and Hip Hop Public Health to expand on work they were already doing together on Hip Hop Public Health’s “Community Immunity” campaign.

The centerpiece of the “Community Immunity” campaign is a series of animated Hip Hop videos featuring Darryl “DMC” McDaniels of RUN DMC and Hip Hop Public Health founder and President Dr. Olajide Williams.

As featured on PBS News Hour last month, Hip Hop Public Health began working with HeartSmiles’ founder and President Joni Holifield and members of the CAH’s Youth Advisory Board like Young Elder to localize the “Community Immunity” videos to Baltimore.

This will include Baltimore youth adding their own lyrics to the videos that center on their communities.

Young people from Baltimore can submitted their verses for a chance to be one of three $1,000 winners who have their lyrics included in the Baltimore specific videos.

Three Baltimore winners were announced Friday, May 21 by HeartSmiles and include  16-year-olds Chalres Leak aka Big 16  and Kalil Sykes aka Beats,  17-year-old Tayonna Jackson aka TayyBandz. Next month they’ll be taking to celebrity artists and producers to get feedback on their work to make it “radio ready."

“Hip Hop Public Health recognizes that young people are quite literally the future and carry the ability to inform and affect positive health behaviors through their creativity and their unique perspectives,” said Dr. Olajide Williams, Founder of Hip Hop Public Health, tenured Professor of Neurology at Columbia University, and Chief of Staff of the Department of Neurology at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center. “Our Hip Hop Verse Challenge in collaboration with Rolling Out is an imaginative and effective way for us to harness the power of young people and their artistry to have a positive impact and outcome on communities everywhere.”

The hope is to replicate this localization model in other cities around the country.

In their role as Youth Health Ambassadors, members of CAH’s Youth Advisory Board led a virtual session at the CDC Prevention Research Center conference at the end of April.