Harlem Barbershop Serves Up Preventative Medical Care

A team of medical professionals from NYU Langone Medical Center and Bellevue Hospital is offering free health assessments to customers of a barbershop in Harlem, among others, as part of an effort to better serve a community that studies find doesn't get regular checkups.

Research from Dr. Joseph Ravenell revealed an alarming rise in medical problems among black men relative to the rest of the population. It also found black men have the lowest life expectancy of any other race and gender group.

Ravenell, along with Dr. Steven Wall, obtained a federal grant to approach thousands of men in that demographic across the five boroughs and found the reason for the higher health risk, at least in part, is because many don't go to the doctor for regular health checkups.

In fact, Ravenell and Wall found, many trust their barbers more than their doctors. So the doctors decided to enlist the help of barbers in bringing medical treatment to those who otherwise would not seek it.

One of those barbers is Dennis Mitchell, better known among his haircut clientele as Denny Moe. Moe, a Type 2 diabetic, has a barbershop in Harlem, and wants to use his platform to help get more preventive care to black men in the neighborhood.

The medical team brought blood pressure monitors and other equipment to gauge health to his shop, and Mitchell says his clients listen to him when he suggests they get checked out.

“There’s no doubt about it, I’ve saved quite a few,” said Mitchell.

The team from NYU has set up blood pressure monitors and other equipment at more than 100 participating barbershops over the past three years. They have also been signing up willing organ donors.

Ron Armstead, a retired Harlem grandfather who is not yet 50, said learning his blood pressure was very high was more a relief than a worry.

“I have to make changes,” he said. “If I neglect these results it could be fatal.”

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