A project in Madison, Wisconsin, is bringing health screenings and wellness resources to a surprising new spot: the back of a barber shop.
Aaron Perry founded the Rebalanced-Life Wellness Association (RLWA) nine years ago to reduce health disparities that affect black men, with a particular focus on addressing chronic issues such as diabetes and obesity. (According to HHS, black men are 60 percent more likely to die from stroke and 30 percent more likely to die from heart disease than non-Hispanic white men.)
RLWA has tackled those issues through projects such as a running group and weight-loss competitions.
Now, thanks to a $90,000 three-year grant from St. Louis-based SSM Health, Perry is bringing his wellness mission to a location that he says is perfect for reaching out to black men who might otherwise not interact with the health care system. RLWA has opened the Men's Health and Education Center in a room at the back of JP Hair Design.
The center offers handouts on diabetes, stroke, prostate cancer and other conditions, as well as a blood pressure cuff. A machine that measures body mass index is on the way, and Perry is planning to have a doctor or nurse come to the center once a month to perform health screenings. He even hopes to outfit the center with telehealth capabilities.
"We're reaching men in a space where they're already comfortable," Perry explained. "The thought is that if men of color struggle to go to the doctor, we are going to bring the doctor to them."
SSM Health Regional President of Hospital Operations Damond Boatwright said the health system was excited to sponsor the Center. "We're trying to make a lasting impact when it comes to the community’s health," he said. "This is a good example of how we can help improve the quality of life for some area families for years to come."
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Jennifer Ellestad, SSM Health's community relations manager, said she hopes the center and RLWA's other activities can reduce ED visits related to high blood pressure and diabetes.
Robert Sanders, 20, visited the center earlier this month—and gave it high praise. "I don't know a better place to have this than a black barber shop," he said (Wahlberg, Wisconsin State Journal/Madison.com, 11/28; Badger Herald, 10/25; Madison Times, 10/7).
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