Barbershop partnership looks to combat health disparities

Published: Jun. 10, 2021 at 6:25 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 10, 2021 at 6:52 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - To combat disparities, Madison-area Black barbers are teaming up with a non-profit focusing on health and wellness to provide COVID-19 vaccines. However, the effort is going far beyond getting shots in arms.

A vaccine clinic held at B. Right Barbershop in Sun Prairie Thursday kicked-off the first of three in the Dane Co. community. B. Right Barbershop owner, Jason Boatright, said the event represents a larger mission to improve access to healthcare.

“The barber shop is connected to a lot of people. So, you deal with a lot of people on a daily basis, old and young,” Boatright said.

According to the Wisconsin Dept. of Health Services, the Black population comes in last when it comes to vaccination rates, with only roughly 25% receiving at least one dose of the vaccine.

The Rebalanced-Life Wellness Association, a Madison non-profit working to combat health disparities in the Black community, not only partnered with the barbershops to help provide the clinics, but previewed a permanent presence to come.

The organization’s founder, Aaron Perry, said on June 17, they will open up a permanent and free health center located in Boatright’s shop. It will an array of services, from a blood pressure checks to flu shots.

“We started looking at the social determinants of health, and we realized something needed to change. So, I started looking at the barber shops as a place to open up a free health center and we made it happen,” Perry said.

Perry said ultimate goal is to bring in fathers and sons as they get their hair cut, while also encouraging them to keep health in mind.

“Lets start being a role model to our little kids, and having those fathers be a part of that so when the kids grow up, they are already accustomed to getting healthcare and going to the doctor,” Perry said.

The new center, named ‘Rebalanced-Life Wellness Association Father & Son Family Health Education Center,’ will be the organization’s second of its kind. The first Men’s Health & Education Center opened inside JP Hair Design in 2016.

As more clients take a seat in Boatright’s chair, he said he hopes the new addition to his shop will further encourage conversations about health.

“Hair keeps growing, so if you are a barber shop owner or hair salon owner, you should be doing your due justice to keep your clients healthy,” he said.

There will be two other vaccine clinics held in partnership with Rebalanced-Life Wellness Association. On Friday, Resilient Hair Design will host one from noon to 4 p.m. On Saturday, JP Hair Design will host another one from noon to 4 p.m.

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