Borough President James Oddo announced today ‘Take the Pressure Off Staten Island’ (TPO SI), a pilot program offered within barbershops in an effort to increase the awareness and treatment of high blood pressure among black men in our community, will officially begin at Against da Grain Barber Shop (206 Bay Street) this weekend. TPO SI is a program offered through a partnership with the City Health Department and Dr. Joseph Ravenell, an expert in the field of hypertension, along with community partners.
The launch of the program will take place on August 8th from 12pm to 4pm and will also provide the opportunity to receive COVID-19 diagnostic testing through NYC Health + Hospitals. TPO SI will be expanded to Executive Cuts Barber Shop (382 Bay Street) in the coming weeks.
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 African American adults than white adults, and African American men have a significantly higher rate of hypertension than white men. Individuals in communities with high health disparities have historically struggled to access care.
On Staten Island, the number of hospitalizations related to hypertension are higher than other boroughs. St. George/Stapleton ranks in the top ten neighborhoods in the City for hypertension hospitalizations and heart disease.
“From the first moment I saw Dr. Ravenell’s TED Talk about how barbershops could be used to help address hypertension among black men, Borough Hall has been working to set up a pilot program could replicate it on Staten Island. As we have heard government express such dismay at health disparities of COVID impacts across the city, we are grateful to be at this point in our effort to team up with Dr. Ravenell to expand his brilliantly simple yet effective plan of using barbershops to address tragically high hypertension rates among black men. The "Silent Killer" is wreaking havoc on Staten Island, too,” said Borough President James Oddo. “Going for a haircut has always been thought of - and rightly so - as contributing to a neat and clean appearance. But now there is something more to it: for some folks, it may be contributing to a longer life.”
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 African American 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 African American 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.