Indiana Commission brings health screenings to barber shops

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Commission’s Status of Black Males approach a cut above

By Giavonni Nickson

Black-owned barbershops are more than just places to sit in a cozy chair and get a haircut. For decades, the neighborhood barbershop has been a sanctuary for Black men, often celebrated in movies, and even in the literary works of Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, Amiri Bakara, and Richard Wright.

The Indiana Commission on the Social Status of Black Males (ICSSBM) is now bringing health screenings to that sanctuary, coordinating the 9th annual Indiana Black Barbershop Health Initiative (IBBHI) in 15 different communities across the State of Indiana throughout April.

The Indiana Commission on the Social Status of Black Males created the statewide event to provide free blood pressure tests, blood glucose tests, prostate screening, weight and body mass index checks, along with information about nutrition, smoking cessation, vaccinations, and other age-appropriate health care initiatives at convenient community locations.

Ten Black-owned barbershops will host the one-day health screening initiative in Gary, East Chicago, Hammond, and Merrillville on Saturday, April 13 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Doctors, nurses, and nursing student volunteers will perform tests, screenings, and distribute health literature at each host barbershop location.

Black-owned barbershops represent a cultural institution that regularly attracts a large number of Black men and cultivates an environment of trust.

Indiana Black Barbershop Health Initiative (IBBHI) uses this platform as an opportunity to educate on chronic diseases and overall health with free health screenings.

In Indiana, Black males have the highest mortality rate, due in part to their lack of trust of the healthcare system.

Chairman Kenneth Allen stated, “Our eating habits and lack of trust in the medical industry has caused us to dig our graves with knives and forks. Heart disease, stroke, and hypertension are the leading causes of death for Black men. The Indiana Black Barbershop Health Initiative allows Black men especially, to get checked out early, increasing longevity while saving lives. The ICSSBM is truly thankful for all our partners, sponsors, and participating barbershops in Indiana.”

Local sponsors include Community Advocates of Northern Indiana, Marram Health Center, and Legacy Foundation.

This year the Black Barbershop Health Initiative will focus on prostate health as prostate cancer is a leading cause of cancer-related death among Black men.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, African-American men are more likely to get prostate cancer, and twice as likely to die from it, compared to white men. African-American men also tend to get prostate cancer at a younger age and discover it at a more advanced stage.

“Many men are scared to go and get checked. They are afraid of what they might find out, but taking proactive steps to get screened will help all of us live to see our kids grow up and live healthy productive lives,” said Johnny Pate, owner of BJ’s Barbershop 6022 Broadway in Merrillville, IN.

The overall goal of the Black Barbershop Health Initiative is to improve the quality of life for Black men and to reduce the disparate statistics that are reported annually.

In Gary, free blood draws for Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) will be performed in the Rev. Charles Williams Prostate Mobile Unit stationed at Lil Lou’s Barber College, 4853 Broadway in Gary.

The Lake County NAACP will sponsor the mobile unit provided by Marion County Public Health.

Louis Robb, owner of Lil Lou’s Barber College, is excited about the opportunity to participate in the health initiative as a host site for the Mobile Prostate Unit. “We have participated in the Black Barbershop Initiative for several years. Being a host site gives us a chance to really help out and get involved in the community.”

Robb urges Black men and members of the community to be proactive and take advantage of the free screenings on Saturday. “It’s important to get tested. Don’t play with your health.”

The following barbershops will host free health screenings:

  • Harbor Barbers, 3816 Main St., East Chicago
  • Lil Lou’s Barber College: Site of the Rev. Charles Williams Prostate Mobile Unit, 4853 Broadway, Gary
  • Cuttime 41st, 4191 Cleveland St., Gary
  • Marley’s Barber Shop, 1223 Broadway, Gary
  • Billco Barber Shop, 2448 Broadway, Gary
  • BJ’s Barbershop, 4509 Broadway, Gary
  • Marvelouz Cutz, 738 173rd St, Hammond
  • Lil Lou’s Barber College, 5625 Hohman Ave., Hammond
  • Fade Cave, 53 W. 68th Place., Merrillville
  • Luxury Kutz, 7189 Taft St., Merrillville

While the primary purpose of the Black Barbershop Health Initiative is to bring health screenings to a convenient location for Black men, the screenings are open to everyone.

Northwest Indiana residents are encouraged to take advantage of the free screenings and health information.

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