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South Dallas Barbers Build Bridge To Better Health

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - At the King of Cutz barbershop in South Dallas, Gerard Claiborne does more than provide clients with a fresh, clean cut. He cares about their health as well.

"They tend to think that's not me. I eat right. I don't eat that stuff, I'm not old enough yet," says Claiborne of his role as blood pressure ambassador. "I don't have those problems, but on the contrary it happens to a lot of young black men."

It's why high blood pressure is called the silent killer and one that hits the African American community especially hard.

According to the American Heart Association, high blood pressure affects some 40 percent of black Americans developing earlier and is more severe.

A cooperative effort between CitySquare and Baylor Scott & White looks to use the barbershop as a bridge to better health in the communities they serve.

"Obviously, it's working," says client Cameron Jackson. "I wouldn't have gotten my blood pressure checked any other time if he didn't do it. I probably wouldn't have caught it for six or seven years down the line when I start having symptoms. It's working."

It's called 'healthy hair, healthy heart' with CitySquare square staffers training barbers and beauticians to check their clients' blood pressure.

"It's so sad to see young fathers that are crippled from having strokes because they have high blood pressure that was untreated," says Johnrice "J.R." Newton, RN, with CitySquare. "Or on dialysis because they had high blood pressure. That's something that I think we can avoid."

If blood pressure is a concern, barbers can direct clients to the CitySquare Community Clinic already operating in the neighborhood.

"Everyone gets a haircut," says Garrett Schwab, M.D., Baylor, Scott & White. "We know that if they can get their blood pressure checked by someone that they trust, then maybe they will be influenced to get that blood pressure taken care of earlier," adds Dr. Schwab who works in the CitySquare Community Clinic in South Dallas. "Not everyone is going to step foot into a doctor's office."

King of Cutz barbershop
King of Cutz barbershop (Robbie Owens - CBS 11)

But it's important that blood pressure be taken seriously says Dr. Schwab, as it can impact everything from heart health, to kidneys, even vision.

"When they come in the door, we're able to see if they have high blood pressure, diagnose it, see how bad it is, and see what effects have already taken place, and also be able to recommend lifestyle changes, because medications are not the only treatments for blood pressure."

But the first step is awareness-- and then action. During the first year that the pilot has been operating, roughly 25 percent of clients who had their blood pressure checked learned that it was high. CitySquare is anxious to get more barbers and beauticians trained, and on board.

"My business thrives on the community," says Claiborne. "So I need the community to be healthy and flouring! I'm ecstatic about it."

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