Yo! Former MTV Host Doctor Dré Wants to Take Diabetes to Task

2016 is already a watershed year for diabetes awareness in the Hip-Hop community, and it’s less than halfway through. Phife Dawg’s untimely passing in March from complications related to the illness coupled with Freeway’s very public campaign for education about kidney disease has brought discussions about diabetes and its related complications to the forefront of health news within the culture, and the trend will likely continue. According to the American Diabetes Association, non-Hispanic blacks account for a staggering 13.2% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes in the United States, behind only American Indians and Alaskan Natives, who account for 15.9%. Hispanics account for 12.8%, Asian Americans 9%, and Whites round out the list with the smallest percentage, at 7.6%. These numbers are crucially important, as they speak directly to disparities in access to preventative measures, quality healthcare, and other tools more easily attained by White Americans. With that in mind, one Hip-Hop icon is launching a bold offensive to help combat diabetes in those communities most affected.

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Heads know and love Doctor Dré for his role in helping introduce Hip-Hop to a wider audience through his work as a host of the seminal MTV show, Yo! MTV Raps. Along with co-host Ed Lover, the man born Andre Brown transcended the barriers between what was largely still a culture not embraced fully by mainstream audiences and placed artists like LL Cool J, Public Enemy and Run-D.M.C. in the living rooms of millions. Now, nearly 30 years since the show’s first episode, Brown is helping to bridge Hip-Hop in an equally resounding way, but this time he could be saving lives. In a recent feature with the New York Times, Brown’s own struggle with Type-2 diabetes is documented in print, but moves are being made to bring his story off the page and onto the screen.

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Having suffered tremendous hardship stemming from his health issues, Brown is working on a reality-television show that will detail his past, current, and future relationship with the disease that claimed one of his toes and threatens to take away his vision. “My stubbornness put me where I’m at. Now my energy is going to change that. We got young people, grown people, old, all having this. We can prevent this. We can cure this. I have an idea how to do it,” Brown tells the Times of his proposed docuseries. The stark implications of the aforementioned statistics play a large part in Brown’s enthusiasm on the matter, as the Times‘ David Gonzalez writes. Brown is concerned with “the alarming rate of diabetes in [B]lack and Latino communities. He thinks his story could offer useful suggestions about how to live and eat healthfully, and challenge parts of the pharmaceutical industry that profit from long-term treatment,” Gonzalez says.

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More details of the plans for Brown’s potential show are unknown, but based on the figures provided by the ADA and others, it is likely a safe bet that a show documenting his surgeries and recovery would resonate with Heads. Most know (and are related to) someone who has suffered amputations, blindness, heart attacks, hypoglycemia, hypertension, kidney disease, or stroke related to complications from diabetes. Do you?