Physician Joseph Ravenell is on stage in this TED Talk. He seems a little tense because his ideas might be misunderstood. (But maybe he finds it simply difficult to speak to a large audience.)
The idea and the work of the physicist is based on the fact that diseases have a significant demographic component. Like the fact that African American men are more likely to develop prostate cancer compared with Caucasian men. And colorectal cancer and hypertension, the two leading causes of death among African-American males over 50. The problem is that these men remain underserved by basic diagnostic procedures such as blood pressure checks or cancer screening.
Advertising and communications people think in terms of target groups and effectiveness. Find the audience in the right place. Dr. Joseph did the same, knowingly or unknowingly, and thought of hairdressers and religious leaders. A good place to bring up tough topics about health.
The barbershop is a safe haven for black men, a place where they don’t have to worry about how they’re perceived by the outside world. It’s a place where we don’t feel threatened — or threatening.
Joseph Ravenell started the Men’s Health Initiative with several partners in New York. He studies and implements strategies to diagnose and treat preventable diseases. He is not only working with barbershops but also at churches and mosques.
I get that what Dr. Ravenell is doing is cleaver, but I can’t ignore the bigger problem. What is wrong with our society that the only place black men trust to get medical, legal, political advice is a barber shop? When you have to leave your own home to feel safe to be yourself, there is a problem.