Local barbershop helps men stay healthy

LOS ANGELES The place they rely on for a shave or a haircut also checked them for diabetes and high blood pressure.

At the New Millennium barber shop Zion Elamin trims while he talks. On a typical day the conversations vary from sports to politics but today's hot topic is the health of African American men.

"They are not going to get their diabetes checked, their high blood pressure checked, that today is the day to start," Elamin said.

Elamin is one of the barbers trimming and shaving for the Black Barbershop Health Outreach program. Instead of just a haircut, men are getting their blood pressure and blood glucose levels checked for free thanks to a grant from the Center for Disease Control.

Doctor Bill Releford started the program two years ago.

"African American men are less likely to go to the doctor, Releford said. "African American men are less likely to be insured. This is the health care debate that is going on right now so this is very timely to show that true health care reform begins at the grassroots level."

The goal of the program is to screen 2,500 men on Saturday in 100 barbershops in Southern California and half a million by 2012.

"A couple guys I went to High School with I saw, so I followed them in and then I saw the table, I said I might as well get tested," Greg Chapman said.

Chapman has health insurance but many people don't have access to affordable health care.

"I'm a handy man and I don't have health insurance, I'm a widow," Darrell Prescott said. "That's why I was so interesting in coming here, to check myself out."

By talking about their health in a setting they trust the program hopes to get young men thinking about life style changes now so the only thing they have to worry about it the closeness of their shave.

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