Special Olympics and Hip Hop Public Health Announce Partnership to Promote Inclusion and Fight Childhood Obesity Through the Power of Dance

New signature hip hop song and music video targeted to youth with and without intellectual disabilities to launch on World Children’s Day

WASHINGTON, DC – 5 October 2020: Special Olympics, and Hip Hop Public Health, a not-for-profit organization focused on promoting positive health behavior change among youth through the transformative power of music, art and science, have announced a multi-year collaboration to advance inclusion and help fight the rising tide of childhood obesity. The two organizations share an ongoing commitment to reducing preventable health conditions and promoting inclusive activities in the areas of dance, physical activity, nutrition and health promotion. This inclusive programming will be targeted to those students with and without intellectual disabilities (ID), aged pre-K to 12th grade, in over 7,600 Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools® (UCS) across the United States, helping to engage these students with the knowledge and tools they need to make healthy choices that inspire a lifetime of healthy behaviors.

Despite severe needs and higher health risks, people with ID often lack access to health services and die on average 16 years sooner than the general population. Multiple barriers contribute to these health disparities. Among them, lack of health promotion, lack of training for health professionals, and ineffective communication materials. As a result, global data suggests that 31% of Special Olympics athletes 8 – 19 years old are overweight or obese. In the United States, 47% of Special Olympics athletes 8 – 19 years old are overweight or obese. The obesity rate of Special Olympics athletes in the US is nearly twice that of the obesity rate in the general population among children and adolescents of the same age. To address this disparity, Special Olympics engages youth with and without ID in schools in fitness programs that help advance efforts towards inclusion and create lifelong healthy habits through physical activity, nutrition, and hydration.

“As a leader in fitness for people with ID, we believe in giving all students a voice in their communities, providing inclusive environments, teaching every student the importance of being physically active from a young age, and encouraging all students to become agents of change. We are excited to continue expanding our work into elementary schools, and our partnership with Hip Hop Public Health allows us to bring dance as a new, fun option in our fitness programming. We have been consistently growing our engagement in urban settings and communities of color and this partnership further demonstrates our commitment to promoting physical activity opportunities to youth in schools in urban settings. Because children with ID experience higher rates of childhood obesity, we need to be leading the charge to reduce the obesity epidemic. Introducing healthy habits early on, including igniting a passion for sport and dance, through our partnership with Hip Hop Public Health, can literally change a lifetime of behavior.”
Dr. Alicia Bazzano, Special Olympics Chief Health Officer

To help kick-off this collaboration, Special Olympics and Hip Hop Public Health will be creating a new signature hip-hop song remix and music video targeted to young children with and without ID to encourage families and classrooms to stay active and move together through dance. The 8-minute music video will feature a variety of dance and fitness movements, derived from Special Olympics Young Athletes activities. The video will be used as a standard warm-up for Young Athletes™ and engage children in movement and dance through in-person and virtual activities. The video will be launched on November 20th, in celebration of World Children’s Day and will live on both www.hhph.org and www.SpecialOlympics.org as well as on YouTube. Citlali Gallo, Sophie Hill and Joey Drwal, Special Olympics U.S. Youth Ambassadors from Special Olympics Southern California and Special Olympics Nebraska will be featured in a teaser trailer, which will encourage families to submit their own footage to be featured in the final video.

“I was first inspired by the power of Special Olympics by watching an inaugural dance competition at the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games. We are thrilled to formalize our partnership with Special Olympics to foster and disseminate culturally-relevant and innovative music, movement, dance and health education resources that support health promotion for all and lay the foundation for creating healthy habits that can last a lifetime.”
Lori Rose Benson, Executive Director and CEO of Hip Hop Public Health

UCS is a program for schools from Pre-K through the university level that intentionally promotes meaningful social inclusion by bringing together students with and without ID to create accepting school environments, utilizing three interconnected components: Special Olympics Unified Sports®, inclusive youth leadership, and whole school engagement.

Young Athletes can serve as a key component to an elementary or Pre-K Unified Champion School by providing an inclusive sports experience for children. Young Athletes introduces children to sports by teaching them age-appropriate gross motor development skills that support their future participation in Unified Sports. When conducted in schools or early childhood development centers, and combined with inclusive youth leadership and whole school engagement, there is a greater potential to influence attitude change and create an environment of inclusion and respect.

About Special Olympics

Founded in 1968, Special Olympics is a global movement to end discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities. We foster acceptance of all people through the power of sport and programming in education, health, and leadership. With more than six million athletes and Unified Sports partners in over 190 countries and territories and more than one million coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics delivers more than 30 Olympic-type sports and over 100,000 games and competitions every year. Engage with us on: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn and our blog on Medium. Learn more at www.SpecialOlympics.org.

About UCS in North America

Special Olympics North America) has a goal to reach 10,000 Unified Champion Schools in the United States by 2023, providing students of all abilities opportunities to reach their potential as leaders and advocates, and serving their right to receive their education in a safe and inclusive school environment. More than 12 years of evaluation has shown UCS to be effective in improving social emotional skills in individual students, supporting a positive school climate, and promoting awareness, acceptance, and inclusion of people with different learning abilities through the power of sport and inclusive youth leadership.

About Hip Hop Public Health

Hip Hop Public Health (HHPH) is an internationally recognized organization that creates and implements multimedia public health and education interventions designed to improve health literacy, inspire behavior change and promote health equity. Based in New York City, HHPH was founded in Harlem in 2006 with the mission to empower youth and families around the country—and the globe—with the knowledge and skills to make healthier choices, reducing preventable health conditions. Through a research-driven developmental process created by Columbia University Neurologist Dr. Olajide Williams (a.k.a. the "Hip Hop Doc"), Hip Hop Public Health works with socially conscious artists and public health experts to create scalable, highly engaging, culturally relevant music and multimedia "edutainment" tools. All HHPH music, videos, comic books, video games and guidance documents are available for free and can be accessed on its online resource repository. Learn more at www.hhph.org.

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