L.A. doctors go to barber shops to reach black men

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Los Angeles Times reporter Mary Engel follows the Black Barbershop Health Outreach Program founded by Dr. Bill Releford in December 2007. According to Engel, “African Americans have the highest rates of diabetes and heart disease of any group, yet black men are among the least likely to see a doctor regularly. So if the men wouldn’t come to a doctor, he would bring a cadre of volunteer doctors and nurses to the barbershop.”

The response was so enthusiastic that Releford expanded the program to 50 other L.A. barbershops, and then to barbershops in other states. This year, at 750 shops in 50 cities across 13 states, men who ordinarily would go nowhere near a doctor’s office will be offered a health checkup in a setting so familiar that it will seem as routine as a haircut.

Engel found the problems addressed by the program to be both urgent and under-funded.

At almost every screening, at least one person’s blood pressure or blood sugar is so high he’s sent straight to a hospital emergency room.

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