Graffiti, slam dunks, and hip-hop – the new solutions to the childhood obesity epidemic?

Dr. Kevin Strong, a pediatrician and founder of Dunk The Junk, believes reaching children through these mediums can motivate kids to make healthier eating choices. The mission of Dunk the Junk is to educate children about the dangers of junk food and get them excited about eating unprocessed foods. Dr. Strong believes that using graffiti, slam dunks, and hip-hop is a catchy way to grab the attention of young people and make them think of their food differently and make wiser choices.

In an interview with Style 101 magazine, he states:

“The science is clear. Sugar consumption (particularly through sugar-sweetened drinks), is the biggest contributor to the obesity and Type II Diabetes epidemic. We attract kids with our street art, ethos savvy beats and acrobatic slam-dunks; and then educate them about the perils of excessive sugar intake.”

The website provides information on the top ten foods to “dunk” that are delivered via video clips with slam dunk champion Jason Tucker doing the dunking. The video clips are straight to the point and provide alternative foods to eat in place of the junk. They also offer t-shirts, posters, stickers, and books that you can purchase to help enhance the message.

I applaud any individual or group’s effort to bring attention and focus to the childhood obesity and diabetes epidemic. I believe we must seek innovative and creative ways to engage and keep the attention of young people these days and make them consider the food choices they make on a daily basis.

Do you think, however, Dunk The Junk’s approach is effective? Do you believe there is an overuse of hip-hop/sports culture in trying to attract young people? The individuals behind Dunk The Junk or “The DJT Posse” as they are referred to on the site, are not a racially diverse group, do you think that dilutes the message or makes it inaccessible to individuals of color? Do you believe this is a “one size fits all” message that can create dialogue and change due to the backdrop of hip-hop, sports, and graffiti? Let us know your thoughts!

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  1. I think this is a wonderful idea to inspire children to eat more healthy! Big up!

  2. He has a great vision and mission. I am doing my best to look at this holistically, yet I have some lingering questions:

    WHO are his demographics? Is he operating under the assumption that hip hop is culturally universal but only targeting African-American children? His approach needs to be revisited and his staff ethnically diversified. Whether we want to openly discuss this or not, race matters. I could think this idea was as good as gold, but if I don’t see any People of Color, why would I want to participate? It definitely seems to dilute the message when I look at the DTJ Posse and see a bunch of white faces.

    Yet, I am conflicted. I understand that, “people should be judged not on the color of their skin but on the content of their character”, to quote the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. But as a twenty-something African-American woman, I have trouble with this. Perhaps I am just skeptical–this could actually spark a movement. Considering that most of the revenue generated from hip hop sales are predominately and overwhelmingly from a white audience, I wonder if his approach would be different if the statistics showed that it was, in fact, white children who are at the forefront of this childhood obesity epidemic. Or if the majority of his clients were white.

    Although he does not clearly state that his impetus was African-American children, the overuse of hip hop and its essential elements leads one to assume, as I am guilty of, that his target demographic IS African-American children. How can we culturally diversify his approach? From my experience, children like anything cool and any song that’s easy to sing along to. There is no magic bullet to solve this problem. Perhaps, it seems, that this is Dr. Strong’s contribution to this piecemeal approach.

    I could open a whole other bag of worms by asking about food access and food security, but I have learned that if the demand is there, the supply will come.

    -Over and out

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