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Health outreach offers screenings in relaxed community setting

 Clad in a blue barber's smock, Wade Lipscomb smiled and hugged Yvonne Weidman, a Duquesne University nursing professor, as a contingent of student nurses marched into his Homewood barber shop on Thursday morning.
 
Wade's Barbershop, a fixture in the community for decades, was one of seven barber and beauty shops that hosted the 10th annual "Take a Health Professional to the People Day" in predominantly minority Pittsburgh communities. The Center for Minority Health at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health sponsors the annual volunteer health care outreach effort.
 
Lipscomb was among the first to have a student check his blood pressure.
 
"I know how my people can be in going to see the doctor. Most black men don't go until they have to. ... But I know how important good health is, and I'm not going to keep it to myself," said the barber, 64, who sported a neatly trimmed beard.
 
Angela Ford, executive director of the Center for Minority Health, said volunteers partner with barbers and beauticians in the hope that blacks who lack a doctor or are hesitant to go to the medical center might feel comfortable in a community setting.
 
Indeed, many of the barbers and beauticians have been trained as lay health advocates by the Center for Minority Health. They play a critical role in dispensing information about racial and ethnic health disparities, including the prevalence of potentially lethal diseases in the African-American community, the center says.
 
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, blacks are more than twice as likely as whites to suffer from diabetes and about 40 percent more likely to suffer from high blood pressure, which is easy to diagnose and treat but often goes unnoticed.
 
John Turner, manager of Willie Tee's Barber Shop on Frankstown Avenue, saw that happen two years ago when one of the men who stopped by his shop learned his blood pressure had reached lethally high levels without any symptoms.
 
"He's been back, and he's really appreciative," Turner said.
 
Thursday morning, Turner urged patrons to step into the shop's side room. There, amid the pool tables and chairs, nurse practitioner Paula Balogh, who holds a doctorate in nursing practice and works at the Hillman Cancer Center, performed blood screenings for prostate cancer as Duquesne nursing students administered blood pressure tests.
 
Turner, 61, suspects trust is an issue for some black men where health care is concerned. "I just tell them, nine chances out of 10, a white man was the doctor who brought you into the world and got you here safely," he whispered, smiling.
 
Turner, who cuts hair for the grandsons of some of his earliest patrons, has participated in the outreach event for 10 years.
 
Michael Macon, 43, of Homewood had no qualms about getting the blood test and the blood pressure screening at Willie Tee's.
 
"The last time I had my blood pressure done it was a little high, but it was in the normal range today," Macon said. "That's good, because I like my salt."
 
Matt Kolonich, a second-year Duquesne nursing student who checked blood pressure at Willie Tee's, relished the opportunity to practice his profession.
 
"Just being out among people makes you feel like you're doing something that matters," he said.
 
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