It is no secret that high blood pressure is a big problem in the black community. African American inner-city residents are five times more likely to experience what is known as “extreme high blood pressure,” which can lead to strokes and acute kidney damage. According to the American Heart Association, African American adults are 75% more likely to develop high blood pressure before the age of 55.
“[African Americans] have a substantially higher risk for developing high blood pressure compared with whites through 55 years of age,” said S. Justin Thomas, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “It is urgent that healthcare providers counsel young patients, particularly blacks, about eating a healthy diet, being physically active and controlling body weight. The risk of high blood pressure can be significantly reduced with a healthy lifestyle.”
Philly Cuts is a popular neighborhood institution in West Philadelphia where black men can get a fresh haircut. It’s also the place where they can get a free blood pressure screening.
For owner Darrel Thomas, it was a chance to give back to his community in a very important way. Thomas allows medical students from the University of Pennsylvania to come by every week to give his waiting customers free health screenings through a program called “Cut Hypertension.” Thomas has been doing the program for over 10 years. It has been a huge success that has benefitted his customers.
“This community raised me and shaped me. It was my way of giving back,” said Thomas to NBC Philadelphia. African American men are more likely to suffer from a stroke at a younger age than whites. This was the reason why creating a program like this was so important to the business owner.