How a haircut might help your health

By Carrie Johnson Weimar • Published: July 1st, 2009
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Barbershop patrons in several large, urban cities might get far more than just a shave and a haircut at their next visit. Worried by the low life expectancies for black men, a new outreach group has started performing free health screenings at barbershops around the country in an attempt to promote education about the dangers of cardiovascular disease.

The Los Angeles-based Black Barbershop Health Outreach Program was created in October of 2007 out of a need to change health-care disparities among African Americans. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, black men have one of the lowest life expectancies in the country.

One reason? Lack of access to health care. So volunteers with the outreach program, working with local nursing student organizations, retired nurses and religious leaders, visit barbershops in hopes of reaching out to black men in an unthreatening environment. Why barbershops? Because they are a cultural institution that regularly attract large numbers of black men, according to the outreach program’s founder.

Volunteers screen men for diabetes, check blood pressure and educate them about the risks associated with smoking and the benefits of a healthy diet and regular exercise. Their goal this year is to hold screenings in seven-hundred-fifty barbershops and reach at least twenty-five-thousand men in fifty cities. The program is already operating in New Orleans, Chicago, St. Louis and Los Angeles.

For more information or to get involved, visit the program’s Web site at