Could your next haircut save your life? If Dr. Joseph Ravenell has anything to do with it, the answer is an astounding yes. In the last few years Ravenell has been slowly revolutionizing the way men in New York are becoming educated about the health risks of high blood pressure.
According to the American Heart Association, 42.6% of African American males suffered from high blood pressure compare to 33.4% of Caucasian males in 2014. This percentage disparity has remained relatively consistent in the past, which has led Ravenell on a quest to help black men lower their occurrence of high blood pressure.
Ravenell has said that black men typically marginalize risks linked to high blood pressure due their aversion for medical facilities. Yet, they tend to create strong relationships with their barbers whom they visit on a frequent basis.
He has been quoted as saying, “The barber shop is not a medical setting. When you’re in a barber shop, you’re in your territory, and you’re among friends who share your history, your struggle, and your health risks.”
These realizations led Ravenell to develop the Mister B Initiative, a program designed to invite medical students to educate barbers in New York City about the medical consequences of high blood pressure. From there, barbers are able to monitor blood pressure levels, open an easy dialogue about health, and suggest ways to reduce risks for their clients.
In effect, Ravenell is transforming local barber shops into improvised free medical clinics. Free with a haircut, of course.
To his credit, so far Ravenell’s initiative has helped to improve the lives of over 7,000 men considered at-risk for high blood pressure. Revenell believes that if the program included the nation’s entire black male population it could potentially prevent 800 heart attacks, 500 strokes, and 900 deaths annually.