NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) –Some people do not like going to the doctor’s office, especially if they’re scared of what the doctor has to say. Six beauty and barber shops around the city of Niagara Falls are trying to take the fear out of a quick blood pressure screening by doing it in their own shops.
The barber shop is a sanctuary for men. They go to get a haircut, a clean shave, but also to share things they normally wouldn’t with just anybody. David Brown, a customer of Howard’s Hair Studio for Men, told News 4, “He’s like a psychiatrist and a barber, now he’s become a doctor.”
And while health may not usually top the list of things you would expect to hear in the shop, Howard Ivey is trying to change that. At Howard’s Hair Studio for Men, blood pressure monitoring is now part of the conversation. Ivey shared, “Most of my customers I’ve had for a long time, I’m cutting 4th generations so I can look at a guy and tell in the chair if something is wrong and if their blood pressure is up. So I’ll question them and ask them if they’ve taken their meds this morning and they say no so I’ll take their blood pressure for them.”
Ivey says he’s been checking his customer’s blood pressure for 17 years. He says the process is simple but worthwhile. He shared, “It’s very easy. Once you put it on and you push the start button right here. It takes about a minute or a minute and a half that’s it.”
Word got out that Howard was doing this to help out his customers. That’s when Millennium Collaborative Care, Bethany Missionary Baptist Church and the Community Health Center of Niagara got involved.
Ebony Patterson White, community health coordinator for Millennium Collaborative Care told News 4, “We provided the blood pressure monitoring cuffs and American Heart Association posters for guidelines for self-monitoring.”
With their help it was easy to get going. Once the blood pressure is taken in the barber’s chair, numbers are recorded and the customer has the option to fill out a sheet to have someone from the Community Health Center of Niagara to reach out to them.
Felicia Johnson is the project manager for the Community Health Center of Niagara. She shared the goal of this initiative. She said, “Any person that comes in that does not have primary care, to be able to come to our center with or without insurance and we work out a plan so that they are able to see a doctor.”
The goal of this program, aside from making the Cataract City a bit healthier, is to reduce avoidable hospital use by 25 percent over the next 5 years. It’s too early to quantify in numbers the success of this program since it’s only been in place since July, but they are hopeful it will work. So hopeful in fact that they have plans to bring this same health initiative to Erie County.