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"Alpha Phi Alpha partners with “Black Barbershop Health Outreach Program” Effort aims to screen half million men for hypertension and diabetes"

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barbershop_test (10k image)LOS ANGELES—Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. announced today that it will partner with the Black Barbershop Health Outreach Program in over 100 barbershops in Los Angeles County on Saturday November 7, 2009.

Los Angeles-area chapters of the fraternity will offer manpower, logistics as well as medical assistance to the outreach program. The nationally recognized program is sponsored by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and offers free screenings for detection of diabetes and high blood pressure to African-American men throughout the country. The program also provides education about healthy lifestyle alternatives.

“The need to address health care disparities in African-American men is paramount in light of the fact that they have the lowest life expectancy of any group in the U.S.,” said Dr. Bill J. Releford, D.P.M., founder of the Diabetic Amputation Prevention (DAP) Foundation.

“For decades, the black barbershop has served as a centralized gathering place where African-American men feel comfortable discussing the most important issues that impact their lives: politics, social trends, family and finances. Now, we are introducing an important discussion of health and the critical need for health awareness,” Releford said.

This barbershop effort comes on the heels of the fraternity launching a comprehensive health and wellness initiative earlier in the year. At its national convention in July, in New Orleans, Alpha Phi Alpha introduced several of its new health projects including partnerships with the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, State Farm’s “50 Million Pound” Challenge, and the fraternity’s Dr. Henry Arthur Callis African-American Male Health Initiative, whose branding slogan is “LIVE WELL—O’SIX” which stands for O-Opt for healthy lifestyle choices; S-Seek opportunities to learn about health; I-Identify health issues in our communities and X-eXtinguish health disparities.

“We are encouraged and excited by this important (barbershop) initiative that focuses on African-American men and their health,” said Herman “Skip” Mason, Jr., (national) general president of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.

“Alpha brothers are committed to serving as advocates for promoting health and wellness among men of color,” said Mason.

According to Michael A. Smith, MD, National Chair of Health and Wellness for Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., this partnership allows the fraternity to identify opportunities to serve and provide outreach to minority communities.

This effort, centered in Los Angeles communities, becomes part of a long list of programs in which Alpha has participated and spearheaded in its 103 years of existence. Some examples include Big Brothers Big Sisters; Boy Scouts of America; March of Dimes; American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. Also, for more than three decades, the fraternity has worked to prevent unwanted pregnancies through its Project Alpha program which teaches teenaged-pregnancy prevention to young males. In addition, the fraternity was one of the first national black organizations to promote HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention.

“We are pleased to partner with the Black Barbershop Health Outreach Program in light of the current healthcare reform debate and widening healthcare disparities in our urban communities. Because African-American men are disproportionately affected by preventable diseases, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity is dedicated to addressing this issue by mobilizing its membership throughout the country and showcase this as a model of healthcare reform at the grass roots level,” said Randy McKenzie, president of the fraternity’s Eta Pi Lambda Chapter in Pasadena, California.

The Los Angeles initiative will include more than 100 barbershops and will aim to screen more than 2,500 men from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with an ultimate goal of screening more than 500,000 African-American men by 2012.

This unique and innovative grassroots program works with black-owned barbershops, which represent a cultural institution of familiarity and trust in many communities as an effective avenue to disseminate health education information.

The program has already provided tests and screenings to nearly 10,000 men in 23 cities.

Compared to the general public, African-American males have a higher risk of diabetes and other cardiovascular conditions, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. The American Diabetes Association estimates that 3.7 million (14.7 percent) African Americans ages 20 years or older have diabetes, while statistics show that forty percent (40 percent) of African-American men die prematurely from cardiovascular disease as compared to 21 percent of white men.

The Black Barbershop Health Outreach Program, in partnership with Charles Drew University, U.C.L.A., Vasamed and Entrahealthsystems, will offer free diabetes, high blood pressure as well as PAD ( Peripheral Artery Disease) screenings at the following locations in Los Angeles: The New Millennium BS, 4310 Crenshaw Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 9004; In The Cut, 220 East Regent St., Inglewood, CA 90301; The New Millennium BS, 1207 N. La Brea Ave., Inglewood, CA, 90302; Legends Barbershop, 5366 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90036 and at Inglewood’s Finest, 122 S. Market St., Inglewood, CA 90301.

Please visit www.blackbarbershop.org to see all participating barbershop locations.

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