Haircuts Plus Health Care

How barbers are aiding in the fight against heart disease, especially among Black men.

By Editorial Staff UCSF Magazine

Photo of barbers Joseph Peters, seated in a barber’s chair, and Terell Kennedy standing behind the chair, with two women standing in a barber shop.

Barbers Joseph Peters (seated) and Terell Kennedy learn to test and counsel clients for high blood pressure at Benny Adem Grooming Parlor in Oakland. Photo: Noah Berger

UCSF doctors are training barbers in Oakland and San Francisco to aid in the fight against heart disease, especially among African American men.

The effort was the brainchild of Kenji Taylor, MD, MSc, whose father passed away suddenly from a heart attack. His story is not uncommon. African American men have the highest rates of hypertension and hypertension-related death of any demographic group. Taylor’s father, who likely suffered from undiagnosed hypertension, had never seen a doctor because he was uninsured and mistrusted the medical system.

Out of that experience came the Cut Hypertension Program, which trains barbers as health coaches who provide screenings, education, and referrals to primary care providers. “Being able to go out to the barbershop is a great way to not only start a conversation about hypertension but also show African American men that they can have trusting relationships with health care providers,” says Taylor, who is chief resident in family medicine at UCSF.

Cover of the Summer 2019 edition of UCSF Magazine: reads “Poison Control...the the rescue!”; comic book-style illustration of three people running through San Francisco; man in the is on the phone; there is a puddles, pills and pill bottle on the ground; Sutro tower shines in the background.

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