WASHINGTON — The coronavirus has hit communities across the D.C.-area hard but contracting the virus for Black people is more likely to be deadly.
That is because of the large number of health disparities plaguing communities of color.
A D.C.-based company is working to meet people where they are to get them screened for COVID-19 on other underlying health problems.
Live Chair, a startup company, is working with a team of physicians and local barbers to provide the coronavirus screenings for barbershop customers.
“Live Chair Health is a service deeply focused on preventing African-American men from dying too young from preventable causes,” Andrew Suggs said.
Suggs is the company’s CEO and co-founder. He has been working with barbershops for years to help them improve their operations and client management through an app platform.
“I knew growing up that having crucial conversations in a barbershop was very important,” he said. “But the conversations that we didn't have is about our health.”
Suggs told WUSA9 he lost his father recently due to congestive heart failure.
He said after watching his quality of life deteriorate, he knew the company had to do more to serve the unique social spaces barbershops provide.
“Pre-COVID, we equipped and trained barbers on how to take blood pressure readings, and then we equipped the shop with the weight scale so that we were able to take weight and then also gauge BMI,” Suggs explained. “So, blood pressure, BMI, and weight. Then, after the client was screened, we provided the client with a health risk assessment.”
However, those health screenings stopped when the coronavirus shut barbershops and salons down.
Now that many of them are starting to reopen again, those same groomers were given thermometers and screening techniques to monitor for COVID-19 exposure.
“If that client needs to be referred to a testing center, then they can put them directly in touch with a provider,” Suggs said.
If someone is believed to be at risk, they are not just turned away but connected to a healthcare professional.
It is a way to meet the community where they are during a pandemic to keep them both handsome and healthy.