Barbershop Health Screenings

The Indiana Commission on the Social Status of Black Males is joined with the Fort Wayne Commission on African American Males and community partners to provide health screenings at 10 local barbershops on April 5, 2014. The video was shot at Unity Barber Shop 921 E. Pontiac St. Fort Wayne, IN.

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Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette
Robert Patterson has his blood pressure taken by Delores Johnson, left, and Rashida Ray at Unity Barber Shop.

Just a trim and some health screening

10 local barbershops take part in annual event for black men

– Limuel Coats’ glucose count was a little higher than normal when he had it taken Saturday morning at the Unity Barber Shop on Pontiac Street. But he had an explanation.

“I just had a sausage sandwich and three cups of coffee just before I came in,” he said. “That’s probably what knocked it up some.”

Coats, 72, was just one of several hundred men expected to participate in health screenings across Fort Wayne at black barbershops Saturday between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. The fourth annual event was sponsored by the Indiana Commission on the Social Status of Black Males and the Fort Wayne Commission on African American Males.

Ten local barbershops, including Unity Barber Shop, volunteered to participate.

“It’s a way for them to give back to the community,” said Andre Patterson, chairman of the Fort Wayne commission. “This is where men come on Saturdays. You didn’t want to ask them to go somewhere where they weren’t comfortable being. The barbershop, for the black community, is like a rallying point; you can go in and talk from politics to sports to neighborhood problems. It’s a great place for them to go in and feel comfortable.”

The event was held simultaneously in 15 Indiana cities.

Volunteers from the Chi Eta Phi Nursing Sorority and IPFW Department of Nursing conducted blood pressure and glucose screenings.

Volunteers from the YMCA of Greater Fort Wayne distributed health information. Participants were eligible to receive a one-year family membership at the YMCA.

Coats said his glucose number was 139, which he admitted might be high. “But I told ’em, it’s like a car – you get a lot of miles, it starts breaking down a little bit. It ain’t gonna be like it was.”

Patterson said last year’s program provided more than 300 screenings, and he hoped to double that Saturday.

“A large part is we just don’t go to the doctors,” Patterson said. “A lot of times, in poverty, when you don’t have any insurance, you just don’t go. A lot of times in our culture, you’ve got to be almost close to death to have to go to the doctor.

“The other part is the majority of men don’t like needles,” he said. They have a phobia, but they don’t tell anyone. And the other part is the cost. Especially now with the rise in health costs, it’s very difficult for some in our community to go to the doctor.

“A few men have gotten screened and found out they were at a high risk of diabetes and went and got checked from being checked here and changed their diet and are working out,” Patterson said. “There are success stories.”

Andre Woodson was one of the Unity barbers who volunteered to get tested. And there was no problem when his blood pressure was taken. He wasn’t quite as willing to get his finger stuck for the glucose check. A couple of times, he pulled away from the nurse’s attempt.

“Me and needles ain’t friends,” he said after the procedure. “I don’t like that. Look how long it took. But it’s real important to stay healthy.”