Spreading Swine Flu Message Through Rap As the swine flu vaccine makes its way across the country, so too does a winning Public Service Announcement from Dr. John Clarke, medical director for the Long Island Rail Road. His H1N1 Rap was the winning entry in the "2009 Flu Prevention PSA Contest," sponsored by the U.S Department of Health & Human Services. Clarke says he has been combining medical information and rap since 1997. He calls it "health-hop."
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Spreading Swine Flu Message Through Rap

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Spreading Swine Flu Message Through Rap

Spreading Swine Flu Message Through Rap

Spreading Swine Flu Message Through Rap

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As the swine flu vaccine makes its way across the country, so too does a winning Public Service Announcement from Dr. John Clarke, medical director for the Long Island Rail Road. His H1N1 Rap was the winning entry in the "2009 Flu Prevention PSA Contest," sponsored by the U.S Department of Health & Human Services. Clarke says he has been combining medical information and rap since 1997. He calls it "health-hop."

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

As the swine flu vaccine makes its way across the country, so too does a winning public service announcement.

(Soundbite of public service announcement)

Dr. JOHN CLARKE: (Rapping) H1N1, swine flu infection. For intervention, I bring prevention. Dr. Clarke, here I come, to make your head numb. health hop, lesson one, to stop the bedlam. If you think you're infected…

BLOCK: That's Dr. John Clarke with his message about how to steer clear of swine flu. His rap was chosen from among 240 submissions to the Department of Health and Human Services. And Dr. Clarke joins us from our New York bureau. Congratulations.

Dr. CLARKE: Thank you.

BLOCK: Very exciting.

Dr. CLARKE: Yes, yes, it is. And thank you for having me today.

Dr. CLARKE: Well, tell me about the inspiration for your rap.

Dr. CLARKE: Well, what it was is that I've been doing this since 1997. Actually, I started writing rap songs when I was eight years old and in 1997, I started combining medical information with rap. And I created something I called health hop. And in May, my wife, who's a nurse - she actually suggested that I address H1N1 swine flu. You know, and I actually had created this song without any knowledge of the contest.

BLOCK: Oh, okay.

Dr. CLARKE: And I found out about it by accident. I went to the CDC's Web site and was searching for information on where I could possibly submit the song as a public service announcement. And I stumbled on the contest and, you know, at that point there was no video and it was August 13th, and the deadline was August 17. So literally in four days, we shot the video and submitted it.

BLOCK: And there you go, you won.

Dr. CLARKE: Yes, yes, so…

BLOCK: Well, I think we need to hear some more of your song.

Dr. CLARKE: Okay.

BLOCK: Okay, we go.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of public service announcement)

Mr. CLARKE: (Rapping) I'm recommending washing hands for protection. Front and back, real thorough, while you count 20 seconds. Hand sanitizer, I advise you, get it, why? It makes germs die, when you rub and let it dry. Don't touch your eyes…

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: Who's your target audience here?

Dr. CLARKE: Target audience is actually the age group that's being hit the hardest, which is those ages 5 to 24. So, we're seeing the highest incidents of H1N1 infection in that group. And also older people as well. I mean, today, I'm 38 and, you know, I write and produce rap and it's the case where people in my generation and even older are into hip hop. So, anyone who would listen, that's actually the target audience.

BLOCK: What are some of your other greatest hits in the health-rap category?

Dr. CLARKE: Well, my first song actually was "Asthma Stuff." And I have a CD called, "Asthma Stuff." I also have a CD on sickle cell, a song called, "You Could Feel Good." I have a CD on allergies as well as one on diabetes.

BLOCK: Can you do us some from your asthma rap?

Dr. CLARKE: All right. I've been done it for a while…

BLOCK: Okay.

Dr. CLARKE: …but I'll give it a shot.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: We're a kind audience here.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of "Asthma Stuff" Rap)

Dr. CLARKE: (Rapping) Booyah-ka(ph) here comes the doctor to drop in on a topic that we leads to mad drama. To be specific to live with, it can be tough but doesn't have to when you master and understand enough about the triggers and causes and know what yours is and how to prevent another asthma event. No doubt about because it's not a joke when you wheeze, can't breath, and start to choke. The situation concerns information about mucous, muscles spasm and inflammation, the destination, a generation that's asthma free, so (unintelligible) and realizing it's just an allergy. It goes on and on and on.

BLOCK: Well, that's a challenge to get mucous and muscle spasm and…

Dr. CLARKE: Yeah…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Dr. CLARKE: Yeah, I mean, what I do actually it is challenging from the standpoint that, first, I have to start by doing research and making sure that all the information I give is factual and correct medically. And then the next step is to find a way to make it palatable to the audience.

BLOCK: Dr. Clarke, what do you win for winning this PSA contest for swine flu?

Dr. CLARKE: Well, there was a cash prize of 2,500. But for me, more importantly, I think the real win for me is the fact that it will get played on national television and hopefully it will definitely make a difference in decreasing the spread of H1N1.

BLOCK: And the complete rap and video are also on our Web site, npr.org.

Dr. CLARKE: Oh, okay, great.

BLOCK: Dr. Clarke, thanks for talking with us.

Dr. CLARKE: Yes, thanks for having me.

BLOCK: That's Dr. John Clarke. He won a contest sponsored by the Department of Health and Human Services to come up with a public service announcement on H1N1 swine flu. He is also the medical director for the Long Island Railroad.

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