Borough President James Oddo has announced a revamp of ‘Take the Pressure Off Staten Island’ (TPO SI) which has transformed into a new model to continue the effort in increasing awareness and treatment of high blood pressure among Black men in our community. The event will kick off again this weekend at the Central Family Life Center located at 59 Wright Street, Staten Island, NY 10304. Barbers will be available at the center every Saturday for a haircut. Free blood pressure checks and linkages to resources will also be provided by trained individuals at CFCL and navigators from our partners at Community Health Action of Staten Island (CHASI) until the end of the project. TPO SI is a program offered through a partnership with the City Health Department, Dr. Joseph Ravenell from NYU, along with community partners.
The first event in this series will take place on April 10th from 10am to 3pm. The program looks to combine the existing barbershop model and enhance it with the added trust of faith-based leaders at the center, particularly their Executive Director Rev. Carolina who is a senior pastor at the neighboring First Baptist Central church.
“The best way to mitigate the historic healthcare inequalities is through meaningful collaborations. Hypertension is a silent killer that disproportionately impacts communities of color,” said Rev. Carolina. “I am proud of the collaborative partnership of The Central Family Life Center, CHASI, local barbershops and the Staten Island Borough President's Office in providing blood pressure screening via community events and haircuts. By working together, everyone benefits.”
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.
The pilot, which began in August 2020, connected barbershops on the North Shore of Staten Island with hypertension testing as a preventative measure among African American men.
On Staten Island, the number of hospitalizations related to hypertension are higher than other boroughs. St. George/Stapleton ranks in the top 10 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 worked to set up the pilot program last August to replicate this initiative 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 again 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.