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Even a haircut can prompt a conversation about health care

In the old days, a man went to a barber shop for a haircut and a shave. But at Urban Kutz in Cleveland, patrons are more likely to be wearing a blood pressure cuff than a neck wrap. Gabriel Kramer of the PBS station Ideastream shares a story about a barber whose customers were “starting to disappear” and who decided to turn his shop into a health care resource as a result.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Barbershops are often hubs of conversation, I'm told, but one on the West Side of Cleveland is also a hub for health.

    Gabriel Kramer PBS station ideastream reports.

  • Gabriel Kramer:

    Barbershop customers come in for a haircut, and maybe some friendly sports banter.

  • Man:

    I think we're going to win, but I don't know if we're going to sweep.

  • Man:

    I thought you were a money-talking dude.

  • Gabriel Kramer:

    But at Waverly Willis' Urban Kutz barbershop in Cleveland, some customers come in for an additional reason.

  • Woman:

    So, your blood pressure is perfect.

  • Man:

    His blood pressure is perfect?

  • Woman:

    It's perfect. It's perfect.

  • Man:

    Get out of here, man.

  • Woman:

    No, It's perfect.

  • Gabriel Kramer:

    Willis wanted to add a health component to his haircutting services.

  • Waverly Willis:

    My clients were starting to disappear. And when I would run into their wives or their children or their girlfriend, I would ask, what happened to Joe? And they would tell me that he passed away from a stroke or a heart attack, something to that.

  • Gabriel Kramer:

    Willis wanted to help, partially because he has his own history of blood pressure problems.

  • Waverly Willis:

    I lost 200 pounds in the last couple of years. I was able to get off of the high blood pressure medicine, which was one of my goals.

    Unfortunately, men, we don't go to the doctor, for the most part, unless something is falling off. This is going to be a gathering place. They're going to come and get their hair cut anyway. So, again, why not have a conversation about it?

  • Man:

    When I went to the urologist last week, the girl said it was 117 over 77.

  • Gabriel Kramer:

    Willis started this program a few years ago by asking medical professionals he knew personally to lend a hand.

    But, recently, he partnered with Cleveland's American Heart Association to make the process more formal.

    Brenda Parks is the multicultural initiatives director.

  • Brenda Parks:

    It's an ideal location for people to come, mainly because they trust their barber. And because they trust their barber, they're more likely to explain or share information that they wouldn't normally share with anyone else.

  • Waverly Willis:

    Have you noticed a change in your energy or anything like that?

  • Gabriel Kramer:

    Willis also founded the Urban Barber Association, a network of Cleveland area barbershops and salons that he encouraged to provide their customers with blood pressure screenings.

  • Waverly Willis:

    I don't want it to be strange to know that you can get your blood pressure taken at a barbershop. There's more barbershops than hospitals. There's more barbershops than urgent cares. So why not use these small satellites as beacons of hope and a resource center in our community?

  • Gabriel Kramer:

    With Willis' help, four other barbershops and salons in Cleveland now provide blood pressure screening. He hopes to double that number next year.

    For "PBS NewsHour," I'm Gabriel Kramer in Cleveland.

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