These days, when you walk into The Shop in Hyattsville, Maryland, you can walk out with much more than a fresh cut. The barbershop has partnered with the University of Maryland to help raise awareness for colon cancer, and the nascent program is already proving to be a success.
The concept is simple: barbers who hold chairs at The Shop –– as well as eight other locations in Maryland, and Christopher's Grooming Lounge in D.C. (pictured above) –– are trained by the University to help educate their clients that the disease is deadly, and wholly preventable.
The initiative, called Health Advocated In-Reach and Research (or, HAIR), is targeted towards the Black community, which is at a higher risk. The HBCU received a $200,000 grant from the Cigna Foundation for the program.
"While the Affordable Care Act identified colorectal cancer screening among the preventive services covered at no cost to patients, many people are not having those screenings," explained Dr. Stephen B. Thomas, professor of Health Services Administration in the UMD School of Public Health.
"Discussing health issues can always be a sensitive subject," adds Christopher Bradley, owner-operator of Christopher's. Having those talks with a barber "makes sense because the community trusts us."
So far, The Shop owner Fredie Spry estimates, at least 30 of his customers have gotten colonoscopies as a direct result of conversations they've had. That's 30 lives potentially saved. Not bad for an afternoon at the barbershop.
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(Photo: Living With The Law)