AREA 23 and Hip Hop Public Health Launch “Lil Sugar"

AREA 23 launched “Lil Sugar,” in collaboration with Hip Hop Public Health (HHPH) to raise awareness about the hidden sugars in many of the foods we eat.

AREA 23, an IPG Health company, has launched the multi-platform campaign, “Lil Sugar,” in collaboration with the New York-based, global non-profit organization, Hip Hop Public Health (HHPH) to raise awareness about the hidden sugars in many of the foods we eat. A leader in health education and advocacy, Hip Hop Public Health is dedicated to fusing art, music and science to educate and empower youth regarding vital health topics, including obesity, stroke, hypertension and related conditions; and, most recently, COVID-19.

As recent data show, the already alarming disparities in obesity rates among children ages two through 17 have increased since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, likely due to a combination of factors such as school closings, shutdowns of organized youth sports, and limited after-school activities, coupled with challenges in accessing fresh nutritious foods, and increased consumption of comfort foods that contain excessive amounts of fat and sugar. As a result, the pandemic has accelerated childhood obesity, putting young people at a higher risk for type 2 diabetes and other health issues. “Lil Sugar” aims to improve nutrition literacy and shed light on the many sugars that are lurking in the foods we eat.

The campaign centers around the character “Lil Sugar” – a cunning sugar cube and master of disguise whose primary goal is to ensure that no one recognizes who or what it truly is or where it’s hiding until it’s too late. Lil Sugar is introduced in an original song and animated hip-hop music video that features Darryl “DMC” McDaniels of RUN DMC as the voice of Lil Sugar. As a hip-hop legend, community advocate, and health enthusiast, DMC uses hard-hitting raps and unapologetic swagger to reveal Lil Sugar’s sinister strategy of stealthily making his way into various foods that children and families eat.

“Health advocacy is a passion of mine, and music is the ultimate form of expression when it comes to sharing important health information within our communities,” says Darryl DMC McDaniels. “I am honored to lend my voice to represent Lil Sugar and hope that we will inspire young people everywhere to make conscious decisions about nutrition and their well-being.”

“We wanted to create a character like Lil Sugar that would resonate with both parents and children and educate them on the harmful effects of consuming too much sugar,” said Tim Hawkey, CCO of AREA 23. “Working with a legend like DMC enables the campaign to reach key audiences, particularly those in communitiesthat have been economically/socially marginalized, and to do so in a fun and engaging way.”

In addition to the song and music video, the campaign includes an accompanying website, an interactive app, and is the subject of an engaging and colorful companion children’s book, Lil Sugar Master of Disguise, with a foreword by Dr. Olajide Williams, Founder of Hip Hop Public Health, Associate Dean of Community Research and Engagement and tenured Professor of Neurology at Columbia University, and Chief of Staff of the Department of Neurology at NewYork Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center.

There are currently at least 150 different names for sugar in 74% of packaged goods in the U.S., and most people cannot distinguish them which makes the need for education even more critical. Childhood obesity rates continue to rise and cause an increased risk for serious illnesses such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, chronic kidney disease (CKD) and COVID-19. Black and Brown communities in particular are facing disproportionately higher rates of these illnesses. These disparities exist for a variety of reasons including lack of access to healthy affordable foods (food deserts), the myriad effects of systemic and historic racism, access to health care, lower levels of health literacy and other social determinants of health.

“Childhood obesity continues to be one of the most pressing health issues facing young people and COVID-19 has magnified it,” says Dr. Williams. “The goal of Lil Sugar is to arm parents, children, educators and the general public with the tools they need to be aware of and take action against the harmful consequences of consuming too much sugar. We look forward to continuing this campaign and working with a variety of partners to spread the word about Lil Sugar.”

Learn more about “Lil Sugar"

The collaborative team behind the creation and launch of Lil Sugar includes AREA 23, an IPG Health Company, Hip Hop Public Health, Zombie, Canja, Blurred Vision Entertainment, BizSys, Asteroide, Produceria, Darryl DMC McDaniels, and Finn Partners.

About Hip Hop Public Health

Hip Hop Public Health (HHPH) is an internationally recognized non-profit organization that creates and implements multimedia public health and education interventions designed to improve health literacy, inspire behavior change and promote health equity. Based in New York City, HHPH was founded in Harlem in 2006 with the mission to empower youth and families around the globe with the knowledge and skills to make healthier choices, reducing preventable health conditions. Through a research-driven developmental framework created by Columbia University Neurologist Dr. Olajide Williams (a.k.a. the "Hip Hop Doc") and the legendary Doug E. Fresh, Hip Hop Public Health works with socially conscious artists and public health experts to create scalable, highly engaging, culturally relevant music and multimedia "edutainment" tools. All HHPH music, videos, comic books, and guidance documents are available for free and can be accessed on its online resource repository. Learn more at or follow on social at @hhphorg

About IPG Health

Home to FCB Health and McCann Health agencies, IPG Health Network is a global collective of the world’s most celebrated and awarded healthcare marketing agencies. We are 5,000+ people across six continents, all singularly focused on accelerating progress in health for good and for all. With science, creativity, technology and data at our core, IPG Health makes science approachable, understandable and actionable. With 45+ agencies, including 18+ specialized units, our integrated approach to a broad range of communications capabilities ensures we can help clients improve outcomes and quality of life for healthcare audiences around the world. IPG Health is part of the Interpublic Group of Companies (NYSE: IPG). Visit to learn more.