Why Black Men May Turn to the Barbershop for Healthcare

PHL17 took a close look at some startling statistics, which show black men in America have higher death rates than women in all leading causes of death.  Now, researchers believe the solution may be the barbershop.

You are guaranteed to hear the latest buzz on an array of topics inside of a black barbershop.  Topics such as women, fashion, politics, sports-- no topic is off limits.  Some say the barbershop is an escape from the day-to-day responsibilities.

"We can let someone pamper [us]. It's something that generally doesn't happen much in our lives as men," said Philadelphia barber Osai Becton.

Other staff say it's a way to connect with other men who understand the pressures of society. This sense of brotherhood is why barbershops are a cut above the rest.  Raymond Jenkins religiously schedules his linings with the same barber every two weeks for the past 20 years.

"These guys are family. There is no problem too big or too small. They are always here to help. Even after hours, if you know these guys, you know you can come to them for anything," said Jenkins.

The healthcare industry is taking notice of this tight-knit, barber-client relationship. But, they face an uphill battle as there is a strong push-back from some men.

"We have seen so many examples that the health industry is not on our side. There's a distrust of doctors. I would usually go to the doctor if my leg is falling off, I'm bleeding or I'm going to die," said Becton.

Since men typically see their barber every two weeks, medical professionals are now hitting the streets and urging barbers to encourage their clients to get blood pressure screenings and monitor their health. These measures could ultimately save someone's life. Local barber Sean Davis encourages his clients to work out with him, but admits, that some don't listen to his advice. Despite the frustration, statistics show this works.

A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed a significant drop in blood pressure in men whose barbers encouraged them to take their medicine. After six months of the study, nearly two-thirds of the 319 participants saw their blood pressure drop to a healthier level of 130/80.

"I feel like everyone shares a responsibility to the community. We all have the same responsibility to the community to teach, grow, clean,"  said Becton.

As for Jenkins, he can now let his hair down knowing his barber is monitoring his mane and health.

"It's awesome that we have this dynamic here. The community needs them, just as much as they need us. We work tandemly together and its a beautiful relationship," he said.

Since this study was released CVS Health and Aetna pledged $100-million to community health and wellness programs with an emphasis on black barbershops.

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