By Steven Penn
The Indiana Black Barbershop Health Initiative, coordinated by theIndiana Commission of the Social Status of Black Males (ICSSBM), is back for its third year of educating African American men on cardiovascular diseases and other health factors.
This year’s event is April 13.
Commission Executive Director James Garrett said the idea for the event started in 2010 when the commission spoke with the National Black Barbershop Health Outreach Program.
“(The idea was) originated by Dr. Bill Releford out of California,” Garrett said. “The concept was to take health screenings, health information, and health prevention to black males in an environment where they are extremely comfortable, besides a hospital or health fair and that environment being the barbershop.”
After the inaugural year, the event has continued to grow.
“In 2011 we had our first initiative across six cities in Indiana, where we attempted to do blood pressure screenings and blood glucose screenings of black males in barbershops and it was a success,” Garrett said. “Each year, we’ve grown by cities and number of barbershops participating. Last year in 2012, we had nine cities and this year we’re going be in 12 cities.”
While the event continues to grow, the message remains the same, he said.
“We continue to do the same health screenings, blood pressure and blood glucose, to get black males to understand hypertension and their blood sugar level, to hopefully not become pre-diabetic,” Garrett said. “The overarching goal of the initiative is to get black men to understand health prevention, to manage their health from a preventative perspective as opposed from a crisis perspective.”
He added that there will be other health information available, like the importance of prostrate screening.
Garrett said another important aspect of the initiative is teaching a mindset of openness about health.
“Many of them feel their health is only their own, but one of the things that is stressed through the initiative is that their health impacts their spouse, their family, their children, or grandchildren, or nieces and nephews,” he said. “There’s more at stake than simply them, a black male, saying, ‘My health is my own and if I’m in poor health, it doesn’t hurt anyone but myself.’”
Garrett said the event wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for the statewide and community partners.
“We have about 30 community health partners,” he said. “For instance, we have Urology Care Foundation, the Indiana State Department of Health ... we have the Indiana Minority Health Coalition, and we have Admiral Medical Supply. That’s the only way
that we can be successful, is through their community partnership and the volunteers that come out — both medical and non-medical — to do the screenings.”
Garrett said 748 men were screened during last year’s event. The goal is to increase that number to 1,000 this year.
The screenings will take place at more than 50 barbershops throughout the state from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 13. Cities participating are Bloomington, Elkhart, Evansville, Fort Wayne, Gary, Hammond, Indianapolis, Jeffersonville, Kokomo, Michigan City, South Bend, and Terre Haute.
Garrett said Westside barbershops participating include Freestyle Barbershop at 1037 North Girls School Road; Taylor Haircutting Co., 5035 W. 71st St., Ste. A.; and Lefty’s Barbershop, 2962 Kessler Blvd.
For more information on the ICSSBM and the initiative, visit the commission’s website at www.in.gov/icssbm.
Kevin Thomas, owner of Freestyle Barbershop, said raising awareness is one of the main reasons his barbershop is participating.
“There’s not a lot of black men that like going to the doctor,” he said. “Black men over 50, they tend to not go to the doctor as much as they should, then the black men under 50 don’t know to go to the doctor like they should — and just men in general.”
Thomas said health initiatives like this are just another way the barbershop can be a pillar of the community.
“The barbers are like therapists,” he said. “You sit, we listen to your stories, we talk to you, we counsel you. It’s like a country club for men. This is the place you can get away from your wife, this is like the basement of the house — the man cave. Guys bond here, the customers and the barbers. The barbershop has pretty much been the cornerstone of the neighborhood for years, we’d just kind of like to keep it that way.”
Thomas said the barbershop is active in the fight against violence and crime as well.
“This more of a safe haven ... we talk to troubled teens ... I would like to actually hold a nice little community gathering against bullying ... and against young people committing crimes,” he said. “ ... There are good people that work in the barbershop. It’s always a community thing.”
Thomas said on the day of the event, there will be people from medical fields at the barbershop distributing information, as well as free food and drinks.
Freestyle Barbershop is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays.
For more information, call the shop at 244-0999.