Local hospital partners with barbers to reach Black men

Credit: Jim Noelker

Credit: Jim Noelker

Can health care start in a barber chair? In Dayton, it can.

Black men face challenges to accessing health care, and are more likely to have high blood pressure and die from heart disease than their white neighbors. But a unique initiative is combating the silent killer among Black men by reaching them in spaces they feel comfortable: their neighborhood barbershops.

In 2017, Danny Beasley, a barber at City Stars Unlimited in Dayton, suffered a heart attack and passed away at just 32 years old.

His death was the impetus for a partnership between Premier Health and barbershops in the Dayton-area with the goal of preventing future health tragedies. For several years, Premier Health’s mobile clinic has offered free health screenings and health education at local barbershops.

“This is trying to move forward and not allow other people to go through the same thing,” said Jonathan Cain, owner of City Stars Unlimited.

After Beasley’s death, Cain reached out and was connected with Premier. Together, they began this program. Cain said many of his customers, like other Black men in the community, don’t have a trusted health care provider and without this program, would go without routine screenings.

“(Problems) can kind of go unnoticed, and it may lead to further health complications,” he said. “These spaces — barbershops, beauty salons — they’ve been pillars in our community for a long time. People trust where they go … They come into this space week in and week out, where we have a lot of fun and there’s a lot of conversation that takes place. But sometimes there has to be a hard conversation that takes place. And health and talking about health in our community isn’t always a priority.”

African Americans were 30% more likely to die from heart disease than non-Hispanic white Americans in 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health. And although African American adults were 40% more likely to have high blood pressure in 2018, they were less likely than non-Hispanic white Americans to have their blood pressure under control.

Now, in time for National Minority Health Month, which is April, Premier Health is enhancing its barbershop program by training and equipping barbers to handle a health emergency in their shops.

Employees in five partnering shops have received training in CPR, first aid and the use of their newly gifted automated external defibrillators (AEDs). Each barber has been certified by the American Heart Association.

Credit: Jim Noelker

Credit: Jim Noelker

The partnering shops are City Stars Unlimited, Deeez Cuttz Barbershop in Trotwood, Headliners Barbershop in Dayton, ManUp Barbershop in Huber Heights and Stylzes Barber and Nail Care in Dayton.

“(The barbers’ training and the AEDs are) really another step to empower them to be able to manage the situation the best they can until the paramedics arrived,” said Roopsie Narayan, director of Premier Community Health.

In an emergency, AEDs can diagnose life-threatening heart problems and administer an electric pulse that helps the heart reestablish a normal heartbeat. In addition to CPR, the use of an AED can improve the survival rate of a person before emergency personnel arrive.

“The Barbershop Health program is about reaching people where they live and interact,” said Narayan. “These barbers are active participants who have opened their doors and prepared themselves to make a difference in their community. We are proud to make this life-saving resource available to each to them.”

The free health screenings at barbershops include free blood pressure, height and weight measurements, along with body mass index calculation and a fingerstick test for A1c. Clinics also offer flu shots during flu season and will soon offer the coronavirus vaccine.

Upcoming clinics include:

  • 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 21 at City Stars Unlimited Barber and Salon
  • Noon to 4 p.m. April 24 at ManUp Barbershop
  • 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. May 7 at Deeez Cuttz Barbershop
  • 1 to 5 p.m. May 20 at Stylzes Barber and Nail Care
  • 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 26 at Headliners Barbershop

Making an appointment is encouraged but not required. Appointments can be scheduled by calling 1-866-608-3463.

About the Author