By Ally Balcerzak

Blood pressure has been used as a basic health indicator for decades due to its ability to signal numerous health conditions. While high blood pressure can be an indicator of additional health concerns such as heart disease or extreme stress levels, low blood pressure may indicate circulatory trouble.

Despite the fact that blood pressure screening is a routine part of annual physicals and hospital or urgent care visits, many people do not know their blood pressure numbers, or what they mean. In July, the Community Health Center of Niagara (CHCN) and Millennium Collaborative Care launched a new initiative to change that — the Barber and Beauty Shop Initiative.

Inspired by a similar project in Rochester, NY, Ebony Patterson-White, a community health worker coordinator for Millennium, worked to bring the essential health screening to the community instead of the other way around. The goal of the Barber and Beauty Shop Initiative is to make blood pressure monitoring convenient and easily accessible. With barbershops and beauty salons already considered an important community gathering area, they emerged as logical locations for the self-monitored screenings.

Bringing the initiative from idea to reality required more than just research and the creation of education material. “The Community Health Center of Niagara and Pastor Raymond Allen developed valuable relationships with local barber and beauty shops where we are now able to create B&B Health Stop locations in the Niagara Falls Community,” says Ebony.

Each B&B Health Stop is supplied with a digital blood pressure monitor, instructions on how to use it, and referral forms that patrons can fill out and drop in a secure container to obtain a follow-up call from CHCN. To make the screenings more accessible to individuals, the monitor is designed to simply sit around the wrist, as opposed to more traditional cuffs that sit higher on the arm.

Since launching July 1, the Niagara Falls community has responded enthusiastically to the initiative. “The barbers and stylists are telling us that their clients are taking wide advantage of the self-monitoring blood pressure cuffs, and that they are having numerous conversations about the importance of monitoring blood pressure for good cardiovascular health,” says Michele Mercer, clinical chief integration officer at Millennium.

CHCN and Millennium are excited about the early support for the initiative and are looking to expand it into Erie County this Fall. For more information on the Barber and Beauty Shop Initiative, contact Felicia Johnson, Project Manager – Community Relations, Community Health Center of Buffalo at 716-986-9199.

About the Author: Ally Balcerzak is a content strategist and creator. A graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, Ally combines her journalism training with a passion for nutrition and fitness.