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Is Health Cool?


Nick Cannon’s: ‘NCredible Health Hustle’

            A’ight so say word, Nick Cannon is on his grind once again and it’s about to go down. He’s gettin it on and poppin wit his new web series ‘NCredible Health Hustle’.  The boy just had kidney failure and now he’s eatin right and doin big things trying to get back on point.  Yo, so da question is, can health be cool? Can he make it cool?

Now that I have said this with a little urban flare, I will help you out with the translation.  What I really said was: Nick Cannon has just started a new web series entitled “NCredible Health Hustle’.  The series is about Cannon’s journey as he tries to recover from his hospitalization from kidney failure.  He is now very health conscious and eating right making sure he does not end up back in the hospital. So my question that I want all of you to think about throughout this is: can the conversation about health be done in a way that reaches the urban community? Can it be made cool, or is it already cool?

I said the first paragraph the way that I did because though that was not proper English that is a language spoken by many Americans. It is what some may call Ebonics or slang.  It is a cultural language and if you are trying to reach an audience where their population speaks Ebonics and you don’t then how do you communicate? It is like going to another country and you don’t speak the language, communication cannot happen. That is the complexity that is American culture. How we sidle up to differences in our country.  Though there are blatant differences globally, how can understanding the internal differences help you navigate those global differences?

The project that Nick Cannon has undertaken with his web series is very important.  He is a cultural presence that everyone knows.  He was on the show “All That” on Nickelodeon, has had a television, film and rap career and is Mariah Carey’s husband. He is 31-year-old and was hospitalized for kidney failure in January and later diagnosed with lupus nephritis, an inflammation of the kidneys. “According to BlackHealthZone.com, approximately 20 million Americans have some form of kidney disease. An even more sobering statistic: Black men between the ages of 20 to 29 are 10 times more likely to develop kidney failure due to high blood pressure than Caucasian men in the same age group. Furthermore, African American men between the ages of 30 to 39 are about 14 times more likely to develop kidney failure than their White counterparts. While hypertension and diabetes are the leading causes of kidney disease in the United States, when zeroing in on why the progression to kidney failure in the African American community is at a much higher rate, it may simply come down to two things: genetics and a lack of proper healthcare.” For the article on check out http://www.blackenterprise.com/2012/01/24/are-black-men-more-susceptible-to-kidney-disease/

Nick through his web series has found a way to reach the urban population that may not listen to the doctor or some Public Service Announcement.  The reason they may not be listening is because the way the message of health is delivered is not cool. In an article by the Washington Post, Cannon says, about his recovery about the diagnosis that “From there, I just figured that I wanted to document the entire process, ‘he said in a recent phone interview. ‘This process might inspire a lot of people. So getting back into shape and getting back to the way that I always was before the condition was a journey.’ ‘Everybody loves it and kind of respects the fact that I would be so candid,’ Cannon said.’

Nick Cannon has considered the “cool factor” in every element of his series.  The title, “NCredible Health Hustle” the incredible is spelled in an urban way and including the word ‘hustle’ makes the video hotter by default.  Then the way he talks and behaves in the series is very relatable.  He has also chosen a popular medium to deliver his message.  I am sure he could have gotten a reality television show if he wanted but he realized that we are quickly growing into an online culture and so he chose to do a web series.  Watch the trailer and one of the episodes or more and tell me what you think. Deuces!




  1. What are some methods to reach an untouched or sub-population with an important message, such as health, in your culture?  What boundaries are there in communicating with them?
  2. Can health be made something cool that African Americans especially and others can rally behind?
  3. Are there any other topics that may need to be upgraded or made cool in your country?  If, so what are they?


  1. drcookejackson says:

    Wow Taja – I didn’t even know this was on… how fascinating. this is exactly why I love this blog effort. You all teach me so much. I am watching one the the video clips right now and find it fascinating that he has – Cannon – with great care and detail documented his journey. Speaks to knowing all aspects of someones health narrative! Thanks for sharing this…

  2. sonigreca says:

    I love the trailer. I will watch the documentary after we are done with school. While we talk about health, there is a serious problem going on in China. 4 or 5 doctors from different hospitals got attacked by either patients or patient’s families… I think those accidents are like a chain reaction. One person started, the others just followed. And Gosh!, how much do people hate doctors?!! I think many doctors in China are not nice to people especially when they face rural patients, which reveals a huge problem in China – rural people are not well educated of health issue by the government.. When they go to hospitals in cities. They ask this and that because they know nothing. Doctors got annoyed, and they just became inpatient to the patients and sometimes don’t explain to the patients why they are not giving such medicine, or why they are not treating such back pain…etc… And misunderstanding between doctors and patients grows… So, that leads to the first question. In my culture, the methods to reach sub-population in China is to send professionals to the rural area and educate them about health. The boundaries would be that they don’t trust science because some of them could be very conservative and superstitious, or that they know nothing about health…

    2. Can health be made something cool that African Americans especially and others can rally behind?
    I think health can be made something cool, as long as we have the right attitude towards it…

    3. Are there any other topics that may need to be upgraded or made cool in your country? If, so what are they?
    In my country? I think so… Well, definitely health in China. And my week post, women in rural area could totally be made cool… I don’t know, I feel that people now in China don’t have positive attitudes to many things…. Lots of things could be made cool.. But if people always think negatively. There is no way to make it cool… I used to hear stories when I was little kid that some old man got cancer and dying. He went to climb the mountains everyday because he loved it so much and didn’t want to stop and wait for to die. And one day he just recovered because of all the exercise he did… But nowadays, some one could die of fear of going to die soon… I guess being cool isn’t for everyone…

  3. KSA ROCKS! says:

    Hey Girl,

    There is no better way of ensuring that a message gets to a people than communicating to them in a manner that they fully understand and comprehend. The advantage with using the method is the people can identify with the message delivered and they are highly likely to implement what it asks them to. Following this argument, I am of the opinion that the blog message is quite effective.

    The main reason as to why I agree with the message is that it is well targeted. This means that the audience is well identified and assessed such that the information that the audience needs is well known. From that point, the message is designed in such a manner that the people feel that it was meant for them, not for the significant others. This would help the audience to identify with the message and seek to know more about it. In fact, it is likely that many people, after reading this blog, went on to look at the videos in the links given. In the long run, the message is home and everyone is satisfied. The mission is achieved. Through this reasoning, I fully agree with the blog and feel that this is the way to go when there is the need to reach the masses.

    Q.1 there are various methods that can be used to reach the untouched or the sub-populations in my culture. One of these methods is through the use of branded products. This is where the person with the message can identify the product that many people in the area use or prefer. The health message is then printed on the package of the product and then the product is marketed. The information is disbursed every time an individual makes a purchase of the product. Secondly, there can be the use of influential people within the population. The influential people are mostly the role models in the community. As such, if the information is delivered through them, there is a high possibility that it can be a success.

    Q.2. Yes, health can be made a cool topic that has the support of the masses. All that is needed is to make sure that the people understand that health is important to them then teach them how to observe high standards of health. It would also be necessary to make them aware of the risks associated with failure to observe individual health. With such a plan, there would be a high chance of success in rallying people behind the initiative.

    Q.3. there are some topics that need to be made cool in my country. In my opinion, the greatest issue that has to be made cool concerns the nutritional concerns of individuals. Many people, especially the youths, are into snacking habits that are quite risky. They keep away from healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables, preferring high calorie foods such as fries and hamburgers. These are often called the junk foods and make the body susceptible to various disorders. If this issue was made cool, there could be a chance for improvement.

  4. tjglover23 says:

    @CJ I did not know that Cannon’s web show existed until I did some research.
    But for all of the comments, I think one aspect of reaching another population is being forgotten. Who is your source? Let’s say that I was not the person in the class who posted this particular blog entry but that someone else posted it writing it exactly the way I had. Would that change the view you take when reading the blog? I am not saying it will, I am just saying consider it. I say this because Cannon doing the web series will reach an audience but I won’t reach as wide an audience as say what Jay-Z could do. The source is twice as important as what is actually being said, so when you think of how to reach under served groups, not only do you seek to understand the market and the medium but think about the source. Who will deliver the message? That can make all of the difference. It is like if you had too which weight loss program would you choose: Weight Watcher with Jennifer Hudson, Jenny Craig with Mariah Carey, Nutrisystem with Janet Jackson? Is it the differences in the program that you would look at or the celebrity you like the most?

  5. Boon Han says:

    Hi Taja,
    I agree with you that the person who delivers the message is very important. The exact same message if delivered by Parents may be perceived as incessant nagging by kids, but if delivered by a celebrity they look up to, may just become the gospel truth to impressionable kids.

    Q2. Can health be made something cool that African Americans especially and others can rally behind?

    I’m not saying that it is impossible, but I think it is a mammoth task. Most people will often take their health for granted until the point that they lose it. It is unfortunate that somehow, all the unhealthy lifestyles like smoking, binge drinking, partying late into the night and even doing drugs seem to be perceived as the “cool” lifestyle while teetotalers who eat healthy and who don’t stay out late are seen as the fuddy duddies.

    If Nick Cannon didn’t suffer from kidney failure, he probably would never become an advocate for healthy living. It is simply human nature to enjoy the excesses for as long as possible or until receiving a rude awakening. Most people are just not disciplined enough to choose the healthy alternative because, a “Steak” simply tastes better than a “Salad”.

    I personally think that it is an uphill task because extrinsic influences like healthy living messages from celebrities like Nick Cannon often only have a temporary effect on people unless they can be “shocked” into internalizing these messages. We also cannot have pockets of celebrities trying to make health look cool while all other mass media channels like movies and television continue to glamorize smoking, doing drugs, partying and binge drinking etc… In the absence of a concerted effort by all parties to work together to make health cool, it will remain a near impossible task to convince everyone to subscribe to healthy living….

  6. Laura Chechette says:

    What are some methods to reach an untouched or sub-population with an important message, such as health, in your culture? What boundaries are there in communicating with them?
    I think social media has proven recently that it can be a great way to reach people and bring them a message. One of the boundaries is that not everyone has easy access to computers and internet. If a younger population is being targeted then after school programs can be a great way to educate and influence young people but again this can be difficult for families if there is a cost associated with it or if the children have responsibilities at home like watching younger siblings. I think each sub population needs to find out what works for them and then go with it. It might take longer, but it will be more effective in the long run.

    Can health be made something cool that African Americans especially and others can rally behind?
    I think that health can be made cool, but more people need to get involved to get the effort going. I remember the “rock the vote” campaign a few years ago that was aimed at 18-24 year olds to get them to the polls to vote. Many celebrities and pop culture figures were part of that campaign and it wasn’t even a hug success. In addition to the celebrities I think you need to start younger before kids can be set in their ways and against change. I think that is why the NFL’s “Play 60” and Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign are successful because they target younger kids when they can still be influenced.

    Are there any other topics that may need to be upgraded or made cool in your country? If, so what are they?
    I think one of the other areas that needs to be addressed in the US is the stigma that surrounds mental health issues. I think that this topic needs to be addressed for all populations in the US, but specifically for the subculture of the active members of the US military and vetrans. One can only imagine what service men and women experience while serving their country and many of them need help during their service or when they return to work through their feelings. I feel like there is a stigma though that they “need to be tough” and not ask for help which hurts more people in the long run. I think one of the boundaries of communicating the message that it is okay to ask for help is that there aren’t enough people willing to be role-models and say “it’s ok to ask for help.” I also don’t think it works for other non military personell to speak up because they don’t have the same connection and experience that makes them relatable to the service members.

  7. grabernieto says:

    Wow! You learn something new every day. This was a really interesting subject thanks Taja. I think any issue can be brought to people’s attention through the right communication channels. In this case, celebrities make a great source for information. It really talks about our culture and how dependent of celebrities we are for information. I think what Nick Cannon is doing is very effective for the audience they are trying to reach. It allows the right demographic become more aware of a health issue. Through the right mediums and executions, I think any issue as boring as they can be, can be made cool. It only shows the power of messaging and manipulation to be good for good reasons. I believe any health issue needs to be made cool in order to teach future generations how to take care of themselves and carry healthy lifestyles. Through good communication any issue can be resolve 🙂

  8. Alex says:

    This is a really interesting topic. I haven’t heard anything from Nick Cannon or about Nick Cannon since Wild ‘N Out, and I had no idea he had this health scare. I agree with others that it’s important to consider who is delivering a message. People are likely to be receptive to messaging delivered by people who have similar life experiences, personal beliefs, or perhaps look like them. Sure, I think topics can be made cool for groups which were not previously discussed. I agree with Laura that mental health and post-traumatic stress disorder is a problem in the U.S. and although there are resources, it is still a taboo topics – to discuss people who have “issues” or have “gone crazy.” Not to get really specific, but I think colon cancer is a concern in the U.S. because it is very preventable but many people don’t want to subject themselves to having colonoscopies, which is physically uncomfortable, but can catch colon cancer. I am surprised there has not been some sort of PSA encouraging Americans over 50 or those with family histories to get colonoscopies. However, I also think there is a difference in messaging not being delivered and/or people not receiving information because a) it may be a taboo topic that isn’t acceptable/comfortable for people to address, or b) it is a topic that people from disadvantaged backgrounds are uneducated about or don’t understand. In terms of whether Nick Cannon can have an effect on the health of African Americans, I think so. In terms of messaging, taking something like “hustling” – working hard, trying to get to the top – that can be applied to trying to make the best health for yourself. I also agree with Taja’s point that Nick Cannon’s reach may not be as deep as a figure with more prominent and current celebrity status. As I said, I had no idea what Nick Cannon had been doing since Wild ‘N Out!

  9. Ji Li says:

    I love the way the documentary does by making a comparatively serious topic in such a cooler way. It’s creative.

    As Sonya mentioned, in China, the severe contradiction between doctors and rural people who lack rich knowledge about medical science is a big issue. They go to the hospital asking for doctor’s help, but mostly have no idea why doctors do this to them or why doctors don’t do certain things that they expect to them. Misunderstandings happen all the time. The method of solving such problem is sending more professional people or doctors to China’s rural areas to make people there know more about medical science,which may reduce the misunderstandings to some degree. But it is really difficult to cover all rural people because of the huge population.

    I think that health can be made a cool thing. But before that, the effort of making people more aware of the importance of health is needed. Only when most people are following the trend of valuing health in their everyday life, health can become a cool thing that attract more people’s attention.

    In my opinion, politics and health both need to be upgraded and made in a cooler way in China. Both words sound too serious and stiff for Chinese people, especially for young generations. We feel that we always keep somewhat distance from these two aspects. We want to step closer, but with very limited ways.

  10. tjglover23 says:

    @BoonHan, I agree with you that it is an up hill battle to make health a popular thing in society. I also agree that the only reason Nick Cannon and most people for that matter begin to think about health is because of a health scare. But I don’t want to judge why people do what it is that they do, I think we need to encourage people who see the light and help others before they too have a scare.
    @Ji Li, I think politics and health are major topics that we in America need to address as well. They are very stiff words and usually surround very stiff people. I think the way the media and society have shapped them to be things that are for political debate. In order to change the way people see politics and health is the change the way in which we frame them.
    Overall, I think the web series does a good job of making you aware of an issue, if you take the time to look at it. That is the main point that I have recieved from every post; that now that you have taken the time to watch ‘NCredible Health Hustle’ you enjoy it. But none of you had ever heard of it and if you had you still may have only thought about watching. Like all things change does not happen over night, and progress is a slow process. I think this is really just one way that health can be addressed in American society to reach those underprivledged groups. You have to know, the way they talk, what they like and don’t like and what they respect and don’t respect. Though the way I started this blog was with me writing very stereotypical Ebonics, I wanted to force you to think of those other differences and factors that we have thought of on a global scale but relating it to what is happening locally. For those of you who may read this and haven’t posted, have you ever been in culture shock? If so, what was that like? How did you make it through? Do you feel you can only go into culture shock by leaving your country or can it happen on a more local level?

  11. I think this does a wonderful job of communicating with the target audience. As your blog post kind of mentioned, Taja, sometimes it takes someone from the inside to communicate with the target demographic. The video is fun (ie. Grandfather joking around), but it obviously also is serious and shows that Nick Cannon was frightened by his run-in. I like that they show him working out, boxing, etc. which I think would make him admirable to young men.

    What I am most interested in when I think about this series is how it is being promoted. With a subject like health, it is probably unlikely that it would just go very viral on it’s own because I think it is tough to make health cool. People who may be big fans (probably more likely girls??) may watch, but would young men? In my media class we often talk about men 18-24 being the hardest demographic to reach. Online is a good start, but how do you let them know it is there?

    I also just learned at my conference that people are 12x more likely to click (and watch) than they are to share. So I’d day the hope is to get as many people to watch as possible and get it in front of as many people in that target audience as possible. The hard work is done (getting the videos and speaking the right way). I hope they see some success with this. Maybe this can help @DRCOOKEJACKSON with her research and efforts?

  12. andreslmc says:

    1. In Colombia, the untouched or sub-population are those who live in poverty. As is the case for most people who live in poverty around the world, typically people in this segment of society do not have access to the modern mass means of communication (i.e. television, internet, cellphone). In Colombia’s case, those who live in poverty are present in both in rural an urban areas of Colombia. Therefore, I would say that the best way to communicate with those who live in poverty in Colombia is through grass roots communication campaigns that involve basic people to people contact. Of course, the messengers of such public health initiatives would have to be trusted local or national public figures.
    2.Yes, health can certainly be cool for everybody; though the hard part about this is making it ‘cool.’ Perhaps the easiest way to make health cool is by having public figures who are perceived to be cool to promote that health is cool. Athletes–at least the ones that do not use performance enhancing drugs–can promote health to be cool by attributing their athletic accomplishment to good health.
    3.I think that higher consumption of fruit among people my age in Colombia could be made cooler. While I don’t have data to prove that not enough people my age in Colombia consume fruit, I can say anecdotally that my friends and family, who are my age, do not consume enough fruit to supplement their daily intake of fiber, vitamin C and sugars. I find this to be ironic given that Colombia is one of the foremost producers of fruit in the world.

  13. zhoulinjolin says:

    I love the way that a serious topic is talked in a cool way to let people more people easier to accept. Such a way can get more audience and be more persuasive to them.

    1. What are some methods to reach an untouched or sub-population with an important message, such as health, in your culture? What boundaries are there in communicating with them?
    Besides health and misunderstanding between doctors and patients, I would like to say another issue happened in China which is ordinary people hating wealthy people and government officials. Their children are tagged with labels as “rich children” and “official’s children”. When people say someone is an official’s child, they want to say this child and the group of people like the child are rich, unfairly occupy the society’s resources, have a lot of relations (Guanxi) which help them do everything they want, and even imply that the child’s father (the official) must be corrupting. Such emotions also expand to hate all large state-owned enterprises. When these enterprises make decisions, people always show strong suspicion that such decisions are to bring more money for high level officials and business men behind them. However, these enterprises do not stand out to explain or say anything. So I believe that to set up a two-way communication channel is important. Besides, this channel need to be close to people, which cannot limited to official speech. Try to persuade and reach mass online community could be more effective. I think they could talk about the process they make the decision, what benefits and changes could be brought to people. The boundary is attitude. As long as people take a serious attitude and talk this in a cool way, it would be OK. Talking in a cool way does not mean joking.

    2. Can health be made something cool that African Americans especially and others can rally behind?
    Yes, I think so. I think talking health in a cool way can bring other patients more confidence. Also a serious attitude is essential.

    3. Are there any other topics that may need to be upgraded or made cool in your country? If, so what are they?
    Like my answer to Question 1, the misunderstanding or one-way communication between ordinary people and so called wealthy people and government officials can be talked in a cooler way to let people understand and easy to accept.

  14. meredithmckenna says:

    What are some methods to reach an untouched or sub-population with an important message, such as health, in your culture? What boundaries are there in communicating with them?

    I think that Tajas’s blog post shows that to reach an untouched or sub-populaton, you have to really tailor the message to that group. The way you speak to one ethnicity with certain values will be different than how you speak to another ethnicity.

    Can health be made something cool that African Americans especially and others can rally behind?

    Definitely. You can get people’s initial attention through making something seem “cool.” After a health issue has been made “cool” there has to be a lasting effort to keep people interested, whether it be introducing a new perspective or constant information being given, there has to be an effort made after the issue has become “cool.” If not, interest will probably fade out.

    Are there any other topics that may need to be upgraded or made cool in your country? If, so what are they?

    I think that skin cancer awareness needs an upgrade in the U.S. Although many people know about the dangers and the risk of melanoma, millions of people continue to tan and not wear sun screen. There has definitely been awareness created about the issue, but the campaign needs some kind of re-vamping to really make an impression. Specifically, I think my generation and even people who are younger than me need to be targeted in a way that sheds a negative light on tanning (and to avoid scare tactics, because I think younger people are too naive to really understand the lasting effects of sun damage) to really get them thinking differently about the issue.

  15. tjglover23 says:

    Thank you to everyone for all of your insights on the subject matter. I think that society sees healthy as being cool, we just dont associate the term ‘cool’ with health. I say this because being obese is not cool. If you are overweight you are possibly a subject for bullying. So if you are not obese then you are at least maintaing a healthy weight, which helps make you cool. When someone orders a salad over a cheese burger you look at them with respect because you know that is what you should be doing too. When you see an athlete and they are in top shape or your favorite artist or celebrity and they look good, i would love to get like that. I don’t think that actually being healthy is what is uncool and the process by which you get there and that is what makes you different and that is what makes health uncool. Like Nick said in the video “there is not manly or tough way to eat a banana.

  16. Kristina Coppola says:

    What are some methods to reach an untouched or sub-population with an important message, such as health, in your culture? What boundaries are there in communicating with them?

    I think that here in the states we are relying more and more on web-based promotional techniques for important messages, including health information. I know thats the first place I go. But, its important to remember, that there are still many American’s without regular internet access (or limited to slower access methods than we are accustomed to), from my understanding particularly in rural and some urban areas–though I think that advances in mobile technology will likely help with this problem in time. This being said, I’d be curious to know if Nick is working with any community outreach groups or schools in his target demographic areas to spread his story and health messages. As far as boundaries go, I agree that the messenger him/herself is a both an excellent tool and a limitation as messages are received differently.

    Can health be made something cool that African Americans especially and others can rally behind?

    I’d like to think so, but I’m not convinced. I think that its one thing to admire a celebrity story from afar and think what they’re doing is cool. Its another thing to make choices different from your family/peer group who are much more likely to shape your behavior than a celebrity influence. I do think that stories like this can help reduce stigma and fears and create new social norms which in time may help move people toward lifestyle changes.

    Are there any other topics that may need to be upgraded or made cool in your country? If, so what are they?

    I think that here in the States, it would be nice to make work/life balance “cool”. With the economic crisis of the last few years, I think people are making (and expected to make) more and more sacrifices to keep/attain a job, but at a cost to their personal health (mental and physical) and relationships with family. It would be nice (and I think a more sustainable environment for American workers) for it to be “cool” to be able to balance your priorities without fear of being penalized in the workplace. I think that this is particularly true for working and single moms.

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