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Vanderbilt partners with barbershops to save lives

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    NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) — How often do men go to the barbershop? Once a month? Maybe more? Doctors at Vanderbilt say those routine visit could soon save lives.

“I’ve been cutting hair since the age of 13,” said Masters Barber Shop owner Jamal Stewart.

For Stewart, it’s about far more than just trims and fades.

“I’ve got a deep connection to the community. I know a lot of people,” said Stewart.

So when Vanderbilt approached him about having his patrons become patients, Stewart was all in.

Pharmacist Jarod Parish is now at the shop taking people’s blood pressure, sharing the results, and when necessary, prescribing medications.

“I’m also here to be a sounding board for healthcare in general,” said Parish.

While hair cuts and health care may sound like an unlikely combo, it actually makes a lot of sense.

Doctors say black men are less likely to see doctors, for many reasons, but mainly because of trust issues.

“If your dad doesn’t go to the doctor a lot, then you won’t go to the doctor a lot,” said Parish.

However, they need to go, since basic care can prevent things like strokes, kidney failure, and heart attacks.

“From a public health perspective it’s one of the most important and easiest ways to improve people’s life spans,” said Dr. Alp Ikizler, the chief of the division of neuphrology and hypertension at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

The goal of this barber shop study is to make health care more accessible, to meet people where they are, and they say its something worth trying since something so simple can make a huge difference.

“Because if you just help one person with their blood pressure, you’re saving one life. That means everything,” said Parish.

This study has already been successful in other states and, if it succeeds here, Vanderbilt plans to expand it to even more barbershops and they hope to start testing for high cholesterol and diabetes as well.

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