Making a Run for Education
It might be tricky to rock a rhyme that’s right on time, but it’s not tricky to find out if you’re at risk for type 2 diabetes. At least Rev. Run thinks so.
The Rev. Joseph “Run” Simmons, 48, was a founding member of Run-D.M.C., one of the first and most influential rap groups. His career has seen several reincarnations since the Hollis, Queens, N.Y., native first stepped his unlaced Adidas on the stage. He’s a producer, a DJ, a reality television star (MTV’S Run’s House), an author (Take Back Your Family: A Challenge to America’s Parents), and a Pentecostal minister. And this summer, he left his home church and started touring other African American congregations to raise awareness about diabetes.
Partnering with Novo Nordisk for its Ask.Screen.Know. campaign, Rev. Run spoke at churches across the country, speaking about his family’s experiences with diabetes, as well as his own experiences as someone at high risk for type 2. “Before, I wasn’t concerned,” he says about his risks. But seeing his own father’s struggles with the disease inspired “Rev.” to do more. He’s recently lost 20 pounds. “Now, it’s a choice. Egg whites instead, no jelly on your toast, always weigh it out… If you start the day out right, it continues, and I get nudges from the Holy Spirit along the way.”
If it sounds a little weird to see a rapper in church, talking about health, well, Rev. says with a laugh, “my whole career has been weird.” He thinks being in church is an ideal spot to spread the word about diabetes. “People need to know about health, and church is the perfect place,” Rev. says. “You come to church to learn. I know that truth keeps people interested. [So] I talk to them about my fears first.”
By opening up—about his family, his own thoughts and health, and his career—Rev. Run hopes that his appearances will help save lives. “Diabetes is a controllable condition,” he says. “They need to know if they have diabetes; they need to know the risk factors. When they hear ‘do it for family,’ that touches them. If you have it, you can manage it. If you don’t, you can prevent or delay it. People can be healthier for a long time.”
The American Diabetes Association’s Risk Test is available at its Facebook page, facebook.com/AmericanDiabetesAssociation.
There are even more connections between diabetes advocacy and rap celebrities.