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Black men trust their barbers. A Madison barbershop is using that to improve their health

he medical community often faces a challenge of reaching Black men for care. Oftentimes it’s due to lack of equal access, poverty, and medical mistrust. Marisa Wojcik of PBS Wisconsin looks at an innovative approach to improve Black mens’ health using a Madison barbershop.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Some problems find solutions in unexpected places.

    The medical community often faces a challenge of reaching Black men for care.

    Marisa Wojcik of PBS Wisconsin looks at an innovative approach using the local barbershop.

  • Aaron Perry:

    I had this idea when I used to come and get my hair cut, of course, when I had hair. I would come over to the barbershop and I would hear guys just talking about all types of health problems.

  • Marisa Wojcik:

    Having made his own health a priority after finding out he was diabetic, Aaron Perry became concerned about the effects of the medical community being unable to reach Black men.

  • Aaron Perry:

    Why can't we figure out how to keep Black men alive longer than 51 years of age?

  • Dr. Jasmine Zapata:

    We're seeing Black men with increasingly higher rates of cancer, lung disease, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure.

  • Marisa Wojcik:

    Dr. Jasmine Zapata is the chief medical officer and state epidemiologist for community health promotion at the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, a long title for what she calls:

  • Dr. Jasmine Zapata:

    A disease detective.

  • Marisa Wojcik:

    When it comes to impacting long-term health issues:

  • Dr. Jasmine Zapata:

    Prevention is key, instead of waiting until after a problem comes up and then going to the doctor to work on fixing it. We need to do everything that we can to reach people where they're at.

  • Aaron Perry:

    Why don't we bring the medical community to the barbershop? And so I pitched that idea to Jeff Patterson, the owner.

  • Jeff Patterson:

    It was like a no-brainer.

  • Marisa Wojcik:

    Within months, the Rebalanced-Life Wellness Association, the first ever men's health center of its kind, opened attached to the J.P. Hair Design barbershop in Madison.

  • Aaron Perry:

    We do blood pressure screenings. We do flu shots. We do diabetes testing. We do glucose testing. We do cholesterol testing. And it's always going to be free as long as I'm alive, you know?

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Marisa Wojcik:

    But there is something else the barbershop provides that makes this model so successful.

  • Jeff Patterson:

    It's a trust thing. I think barbers have a good persuasion over their clients because there's trust between a client and barber.

  • Dr. Jasmine Zapata:

    So, when we talk about trust, it is not just credentials. Building trust in relationships when you are making important health care decisions for yourself and your family members, you need to know that person is reliable.

    Social connectivity is so important. So, in many of these spaces, you're not alone.

  • Aaron Perry:

    The barbers, you know, they just know everything about all of their clientele.

  • Man:

    Marriage, kids, work problems, working out, everything.

  • Man:

    There's just always a place of peace when you come here.

  • Marisa Wojcik:

    For people of color, trust in health outcomes are rooted in factors beyond the medical field.

  • Dr. Jasmine Zapata:

    Structural racism contributes directly to unequal access to wealth, housing, food and health care. All these things have a profound impact on how long people live and how healthy they are.

  • Marisa Wojcik:

    And health outcomes span generations.

  • Dr. Jasmine Zapata:

    We're still feeling the ripple effects of many things that happened hundreds of years ago in our communities. And that setting, that has had an impact on people's actual biology.

  • Marisa Wojcik:

    The health education centers have expanded to two more barbershops in the greater Madison area. And student nurses from a local college conduct the health screenings.

  • Man:

    So, I come in usually every two weeks, every other week, me and my son, to get our hair cut.

    I have always wanted to see my blood pressure, to get my blood pressure, to make sure my health is good. So…

  • Man:

    I know a lot of things about people that nobody else knows, you know? Now if I learn something here, I can just quietly tell them to go back there and check it out.

  • Marisa Wojcik:

    Aaron is still setting his sights higher, hoping to open centers in other states and become the nation's first federally qualified health center in a barbershop.

  • Aaron Perry:

    We're making this a priority, because we don't have the luxury of waiting.

  • Marisa Wojcik:

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Marisa Wojcik in Madison, Wisconsin.

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