Lexington nonprofit tying haircuts to health

By Quin Welch, Building Kentucky

A barber cuts an attendee’s hair at the Project Ricochet Barbershop Showcase and Public Health Fair. Photo credit: LEX 18 News

In many communities, the barbershop is more than just a place for a haircut. It’s a gathering place where stories are told, and information is exchanged.

Project Ricochet, a community-based organization working diligently to increase equity in health care, hosted its first Barbershop Showcase and Public Health Fair at Lexington’s historic Lyric Theatre & Cultural Arts Center in March. Sponsored by Anthem Blue Cross & Blue Shield Medicaid in Kentucky and the Kentucky Department for Public Health, the event encouraged, empowered and educated African American men and children to take a more hands-on role in their overall health.

“We saw the need for barbers in the community,” said Dwight Sthillaire of Project Ricochet in an interview with LEX 18. “We saw that barbers are therapists, they are pharmaceutical advisors, so we saw the need to empower those barbers, educate those barbers. So then, when people like us in the community go to them, they can be guided towards the right direction.”

According to the National Institutes of Health, African American men’s health risks include higher rates of asthma, cancer, diabetes, heart diseases, influenza & pneumonia, COVID-19, mental illness, opioid use, stroke, suicide and HIV/AIDS. Along with a free haircut, event organizers provided free health resources for attendees to encourage healthy habits.

“We’re going a lot of times without getting our health checked until it’s too late,” said Well Groomed Barber Shop owner Anthony Burdette. “So, this is just another reminder for guys to and women — in our community to regularly check their health. Maintain a physical, maintain your blood pressure checks. Things like that just to better their health in our community. And we’re pleased to have Anthem and other programs join in with us for this.”

To learn more about Project Ricochet, visit their website.

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