More Than Hair Care: Salon Owners Offer Health Counseling

| October 19, 2012 4:00 AM video

Dr. Cuts in Brooklyn is more than just a barber shop. Its name provides a hint into what else goes on behind the storefront on Flatbush Avenue in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens.

No, owner Desmond Romeo isn’t a doctor, and neither are any of his staff, but Romeo does counsel his customers on health issues. From diabetes to HIV/AIDS to prostate cancer, Romeo has words of advice.

But what makes him an expert?

Romeo doesn’t claim to be a doctor — just a “master barber” — but he is a participant in the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health’s barbershop and tattoo salon program. Romeo and other salon owners in New York City and in Philadelphia are trained by the Brooklyn-based organization to address health issues in their communities. Barbers and hair cutters have close and comfortable relationships with their clients, the Institute wagered, giving them an opportunity to educate about serious diseases and share risk-reduction messages more easily  — and more frequently — than a doctor.

Romeo says what he’s doing is making a difference in his Brooklyn community.

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Desmond Romeo is the owner of Dr. Cuts in Brooklyn. He works with the Arthur Ashe Institute to reach people in the community and teach them about serious health issues.

The Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health began the program in 1995 in 10 Brooklyn barbershops. There are now over 40o participating businesses, according to Ruth C. Browne, CEO of the institute.

The institute is reaching out to both genders, too. A similar program is being run out of Hermie Fraser’s salon in East Flatbush, which she’s owned for more than 30 years. Fraser goes out of her way to talk with customers about their health, and she says it’s not hard because the customers are very open with her.

“Most of the customers, they will discuss things with their hairdresser but they don’t tell their doctor…which I find is really amazing,” she said. “I guess it’s because they are comfortable with us.”

No doctor’s appointments are required for these health talks, and no insurance either. However, these hair professionals do make referrals and encourage their clients to tend to their health with check-ups and tests at local health centers.

To watch the full segment on the Arthur Ashe Institute’s community health initiatives, including an interview with Chief Executive Officer Ruth Browne, watch the next episode of MetroFocus, premiering on WLIW21 on Oct. 23 at 10:30 p.m., THIRTEEN on Oct. 25 at 8:30 p.m. and NJTV on Oct. 25 at 10 p.m.

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