Sherell Mason, MD, is keenly aware of the health disparities that exist in her hometown of Baltimore.
As a physician, she has had the opportunity to provide direct health care services and other aid to people in her community. Kaiser Permanente’s partnership with New Beginnings Barbershop is one example.
“You have major health issues here [in Baltimore],” said Troy Staton, co-owner of New Beginnings, referring to medical challenges, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, faced by members of the surrounding community. He continued, “That’s a problem, so let’s find a solution to that.”
People in the community come in to New Beginnings Barbershop and stay for hours at this safe place where they can educate themselves, seek advice from others, and cry and laugh together. They trust one another.
These are the reasons why Kaiser Permanente chose the barbershop as their first partner location, to bolster community relations and offer flu vaccines. Soon, this effort expanded beyond flu vaccines. When Kaiser Permanente physicians are onsite at partner locations, customers may engage with them in casual discussions about their personal experiences and staying healthy. Barbershop and beauty salon patrons are also able to receive health care screenings in a warm and inviting atmosphere.
Dr. Mason, a Permanente Medical Group physician, recalls one instance where she connected with a woman at another partner site. They had an extended conversation in which the woman shared with Dr. Mason concerns about some medications she had been prescribed. Dr. Mason explained the importance of taking prescribed medications and encouraged the woman to speak with her primary care doctor. “This was an important moment for me,” notes Dr. Mason. “Because of our partnerships with barbershops and beauty salons, we are able to reach people who may otherwise never voice their concerns.”