Health screenings aimed at black barbershops

May 10, 2012 7:09:51 AM PDT
This Saturday, a group of Bay Area barbershops will be offering more than a cut and a shave. These barbershops are in the black community and that's exactly the reason they've been chosen as sites for health screenings aimed at African-American men.

At the New Chicago Barbershop in San Francisco's Fillmore District -- it's hard to find someone who doesn't have high blood pressure or know someone who does. Dr. Bill Releford came up with the idea of screening for high blood pressure and diabetes at the one place you're guaranteed to find groups of African-American men -- the black barbershop.

"The barber knows what's happening in the community. So now we're leveraging that relationship in our community to propagate a message about eating healthy, exercising and identifying the people with high blood pressure and diabetes," said Dr. Releford.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says more than 26 percent of black men have hypertension. Black men are also twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes than whites, and twice as likely to die from it. Much of that is from diets high in salt, fat and sugar -- which can lead to obesity. Since conversations in the barbershop tend to be free-wheeling and wide-ranging, health talk won't be out of place.

"To find black men, to get your information across, this where you're going to find them," said barber shop customer Jerry Calloway.

And use them to spread the word.

"I would tell them to get a screening, because a lot of people are dying from strokes or kidney failure or diabetes," said Calloway.

"We have conversations about politics, we talk about our families, relationships, sports and now we're talking about our health," said Dr. Releford.

The four-year-old program has touched 30,000 men in 38 cities so far. The goal is to reach 500,000 by 2014.

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