Nelson Thomas of Nelson’s Hair Studio with members of the CHCB and MCC team.

By Felicia Johnson

The Barber & Beauty Health Stop Initiative is a collaboration of three organizations: Bethany Missionary Baptist Church (Pastor Raymond H. Allen), Community Health Center of Niagara (Felicia Johnson – Project Manager), Millennium Collaborative Care (Ebony Patterson-White, Community Health Worker Coordinator.  The collaboration is the brain child of Pastor Allen.  He decided that in order to make this initiative a reality, he would partner with other organizations that shared his vision of addressing health disparities by bringing health information and resources directly to the community through some of the most trusted outlets of inter-city communities: barber Shops and beauty Salons.  This initiative launched was in July 2017.

Like churches in the African American culture, barber shops and beauty Salons are historically stable establishments in inter-city communities.  They have a captive audience and a platform for the exchange of positive communication with a frequency of every 7 to 14 days.  As a result, in July 2017, self-monitoring blood pressure measurement devices and a primary care referral card were placed in six Niagara Falls barber shops & beauty salons. The blood pressure devices have generated quite a buzz and will be an ongoing initiative.  The collaboration has introduced new health initiatives to the shops each quarter (prostate and breast cancer mini sessions).  The initiative has been very successful and is and will continue to expand with new health components throughout 2018.

The Partnering Organizations:

Bethany Missionary Baptist Church: Is a non-profit religious organization that has been in existence for 37yrs. serving Niagara county.  Rev. Raymond H. Allen has been the pastor since 2006.  Under his leadership Pastor Allen has organized programs and venues around Christian Education, evangelism, fellowship, Christian spiritual life and work. He leads with a strong commitment to the Niagara Falls community. Pastor Allen currently serves as the President of the Niagara Ministerial Counsel, Vice President of NOAH.  He is also member of the Create a Healthier Niagara Falls Collaborative and is a Board Member of Niagara Family & Children Services of Niagara. Pastor Allen resides in Niagara Falls with his wife.

Community Health Center of Niagara is a satellite of The Community Health Center of Buffalo (CHCB) which started as a federally qualified health center (FQHC) in 1999 on the grounds of ECMC in Buffalo, New York. Over the last 18 years CHCB has grown its patient base to over 18,000 patients in Erie and Niagara Counties.  We host a diverse patient base with 66% of patients from communities of color and almost 10% percent speaking a language other than English. We serve those in greatest need; 54% of our patients have incomes 200% below the federal poverty line and an additional 24% are at or below the federal poverty line.  CHCB has four physical locations and also sees patients on our mobile medical unit.  Our mission is to provide quality, culturally sensitive, preventive, primary healthcare to underserved communities.  We have state-of-the-art clinical and dental equipment and utilize best practices to provide a teaching environment geared to reduce health disparities. Our services include: adult and pediatric primary and dental care; HIV testing, services and counseling; our Niagara Falls and Buffalo sites have Quest laboratories on the premises; Buffalo has a 340b pharmacy and Niagara Falls is on tap to open their 340b pharmacy in late 2018.  We also provide behavioral health and social work.

Millennium Collaborative Care is charged with the magnanimous task of improving the delivery of healthcare services for Medicaid patients across the eight counties of Western New York. The path they have chosen to successfully achieve this task is to partner with physicians, healthcare providers and community-based organizations in five specific areas (acute care, ambulatory services, behavioral health, community engagement and post-acute care). Their specific mission is to build a diverse, innovative, community-based collaboration to support positive health outcomes for all Medicaid patients in Western New York. The Barber and Beauty Initiative creates opportunities for customers to be linked to healthcare services, education and self-monitor their blood pressure.  This is an important and valuable link to improved health care tools within their respective client bases and communities.

Statistical Data:

  • 1 and 3 adults living in Niagara County have high blood pressure
  • Heart Disease, Stroke, and Cardiovascular Diseases are leading killers in the African American Community
  • Sedentary lifestyle, smoking, alcohol use, and lack of primary care lead to the development of chronic diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

Black Expo 2018 is the B&B Health Stop’s first major event and will be hosted by Felicia Johnson, Project Manager at the Community Health Center of Niagara.  In recognition of Black History Month, the Black Expo is being held on Sunday, February 25, 2018 at the Doris W. Jones Resource Center and is designed to display the talents, skills and services of African American entrepreneurs in a vending format. There will also be live entertainment, beauty & healthy food demos, live poetry, dance demos, live music and much more.  All vendors will be from Niagara County.

A community can only be as healthy as its residents – mentally, spiritually, economically, and physically. Moving forward, healthcare has to come from behind the brick and mortar walls of health care buildings and funnel access to those services and education directly into the community.  It is our goal to reduce inequality and disparity in health care through our Barber and Beauty Shop Initiative.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustices in health care are the most shocking and inhumane.”

Felicia Johnson is Project Manager/Community Relations for Community Health Center of Niagara

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