Today, Borough President James Oddo joined Dr. Joseph Ravenell of NYU Langone Health to announce a grant that will continue the work initiated by the ‘Take the Pressure Off Staten Island’ (TPO SI) hypertension barbershop pilot. The latest grant was awarded to NYU Langone Health as part of the American Heart Association’s Health Equity Research Network. Current funding will allow the program to continue the work and expand the program for another four years.
The TPO SI effort, launched in 2020, strove to educate Black men on the dangers of high blood pressure and offer blood pressure screenings in barbershops on the North Shore. Barbershops are frequented by Black men with regularity, and are trusted, nonjudgmental locations to take regular blood pressure readings. Community health workers were placed within barbershops and faith-based organizations to provide educational resources and connections to care. TPO SI was offered through a partnership with the City Health Department, Dr. Ravenell, the Borough President’s Office, and many clinical and community based partners.
The program exceeded its goals and resulted in the screening of 1,200 Black men, a large percentage of whom were hypertensive, many of whom were previously undiagnosed. Many were also connected to social services and a small percent were connected to primary care doctors. The program ended in June 2021; subsequently, the NYU Langone team was able to secure a grant from the American Heart Association.
“We plan to maximize the remaining 25 days I have in office, and we’re absolutely thrilled that this announcement is one of them. If you look at the health issues of each generation, it is becoming more difficult for people to take control of their health because of financial constraints and the overall history of selective messaging from the food industry,” said Borough President Oddo. “It’s taken me a long time to understand that this is not a fair fight, but when you see other folks who are creative in taking the fight in a different direction, you gravitate toward them. I am so thankful I stumbled upon the words of Dr. Ravenell in a book I read back in 2018 so we could bring his expertise to Staten Island to change the lives of Black men and others who suffer from hypertension. A huge thank you to Dr. Ravenell, Borough Hall’s Dr. Ginny Mantello and our partnership with CHASI Executive Director Diane Arneth for making this happen.”
“I’m really honored to be on this side of this incredible effort bringing a research project idea to life. Ultimately, we in the research business, we want our research to matter,” said Dr. Joseph Ravenell of NYU Langone Health. “Sometimes it takes luck, but often it takes finding the right people to take your research findings and actually turn it into a public program. We cannot have been successful in this COVID year without so many of the partners here in the room. I am grateful to every single person and I look forward to continuing to work with you.”
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is often referred to as the “silent killer” because it may not show symptoms before causing a heart attack or stroke. Hypertension is a leading cause of heart disease and stroke among New Yorkers; more than one in four adult New Yorkers is diagnosed with high blood pressure. In New York City, the prevalence of hypertension is 1.5 times higher among Black adults than white adults, and Black men have a significantly higher rate of hypertension than white men. Individuals in communities with high health disparities have historically struggled to access care.
Dr. Ravenell started a Men’s Health Initiative at NYU’s Langone Health to address high blood pressure by bringing together a diverse group of research assistants, community health workers, and volunteers—including barbers—to barbershops in various neighborhoods across New York City to take blood pressure readings of Black men and connect those who are at risk of hypertension with medical care. The results of the program show a significant improvement in blood pressure among barbershop customers who participated.
BP Oddo first discovered Dr. Joseph Ravenell’s work while reading “Who Can You Trust?” by Rachel Botsman. He subsequently watched Dr. Ravenell’s TED Talk on Black men and high blood pressure which detailed the barbershop pilot program. BP Oddo invited Dr. Ravenell to Borough Hall for a meeting with his staff and local clergy in June 2018 to talk about replicating the program on Staten Island. Over the past two years, Borough President Oddo and Dr. Ravenell have worked cohesively to replicate this program for Staten Island.