A Great Way to Raise Awareness (and How to Make it Even Better)

Visiting a barbershop in Fort Wayne, Indiana this weekend could mean more than just getting a haircut, reports Frost Illustrated. It just might save your life.

The Black Barbershop Health Outreach Program, a unique, grassroots approach to health screening and education, will be held at more than 30 barbershops in Elkhart, Evansville, Fort Wayne, Gary, Indianapolis and South Bend from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., April 30.

Led by the founder, Dr. Bill J. Releford, D.P.M., (left) along with a squadron of volunteers, the program seeks to empower African American men to better understand cardiovascular diseases through Screening, Education and Referrals for follow-up care.

“The need to address healthcare disparities in African American men is paramount, in light of the fact that they have the lowest life expectancy of any group in the U.S.,” said Dr. Releford, D.P.M, a podiatric surgeon.

“For decades, the black barbershop has served as the place where African American men discuss the most important issues that impact their lives. Now, we are introducing an important discussion of health and the critical need for health awareness.”

“This is a great way to reach people,” said Sparklight President Joseph LaMountain.  “A California program, in which hairdressers educated African American women about breast cancer, was a huge success and profiled in The Tipping Point.”

“But instead of a one-time event,” LaMountain continued, “the stylists discussed breast cancer during every hair appointment.  That repetition made the message stick.  Adding something similar might make the Black Barbershop program even more effective.”

More than 25,000 African American men have been tested in 23 cities, including New Orleans, Chicago, Atlanta, St. Louis, Washington, D.C., Baltimore and California cities since 2007 when the outreach program was launched. The ultimate goal by 2012 is to screen more than a half million African American men.

Since 2007, nearly 750 black-owned barbershops have participated in the program. To learn more about the health outreach effort, and to view a complete list of those barbershops involved, please go to http://www.BlackBarbershop.org.

The program is funded by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, Charles R. Drew University of Medicine & Science, UCLA and the Prostate Cancer Foundation. Those found to be “at risk” will receive the Real Black Book; a local resource guide that lists low cost medical care providers in their communities.

This year’s national partners include the Releford Institute Foot and Ankle Institute and the Prostate Cancer Foundation.  Local health and community partners include the Fort Wayne Commission on the Social Status of African American Males, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. and the ITT Tech Nursing Program.

Recent figures show African American men are 30 percent more likely to die from heart disease than white men, according to the Office of Minority Health-an arm of Health and Human Services, a federal agency. Also, African American men suffer from prostrate cancer at a level that’s more than twice the mortality rate for any other racial or ethnic group in the U.S., according to the CDC.

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