In the Denver metropolitan area, an inner city health ministry is using barbersops and beauty salons to perform blood pressure and hypertension screening, health education, and referral for those without health insurance. For the past six years, this health outreach has impacted the lives of those in the area.
Podiatrist Dr. Bill Releford began a similar program in the Los Angeles area in 2007 to screen African American men for diabetes and high blood pressure. Releford observed patients losing limbs due to uncontrolled circulatory disease. Because of this, Releford started a community health outreach that has since spread nationwide.
After hearing Releford’s story, my wife (who is a nurse) and I started screening for hypertension and diabetes at the local barbershop.
This simple beginning led to a collaboration with the Colorado Black Health Collaborative and an expanded outreach. We now have a group of 15 barbershops and salons and do four-hour screening sessions almost every Sabbath morning or afternoon.
Our all-volunteer group of about 70 comes from various churches, universities and the local community. As a result, we have screened 7,768
individuals for hypertension; 1,092 for diabetes; and have logged 5,428 volunteer hours since 2012.
This program is surprisingly low cost. You do not need to wait to apply for a grant to start a similar project. Simply start with one barbershop or salon and expand from there. Here are the key things you need to be able to start in your city:
- A committee of volunteers to organize and set goals
- Blood pressure cuffs, folding tables and glucometers
- Medical personnel to supervise and do skilled training
- If possible, donated brochures for health education
- A local safety net clinic to refer those without health insurance
- A monthly schedule for outreach and log sheets to write ages and readings.
Byron Conner, MD, and Alfredia Conner, RN, collaborated on this article.