PORTLAND, Ore. -- There is a new weapon in the war on one of America's silent killers, and it comes courtesy of your friendly neighborhood barber.
Champions Barbershop in Northeast Portland kicked off a new program this month, called 'Cuts & Checks.' In short, owners are offering free, on-site blood pressure checks to all customers.
Owner Jamaal Lane says the program is the result of a partnership with the North By Northeast Community Health Center. He adds that it's especially important, given that his shop serves primarily African Americans.
The CDC estimates one in every two members of the black community suffers from high blood pressure.
Lane, who went through training to operate the machine, says many customers tell him they are afraid to talk to their doctors, but they quickly open up to their barbers.
"A majority of the people that we cut, we've known them for a long period of time. There's just a level of trust that allows them to open up about a little bit of everything," he said. "Just giving people the opportunity to be aware of what their numbers are, knowing what the good number is, and if they can come in here and get a quick check in three minutes… that just allows them the opportunity to be proactive about their health."
"I think people really just don't realize how important it is and how easily you can have high blood pressure, whether it's lack of exercise or diet," said Roy Rhone, who arrived early for his appointment Thursday had his blood pressure checked while he waited.
After their check, many customers end up talking to Lane about their eating habits and stressors.
If need be, he gives them advice on clinics and doctors that can help.
Lane says he plans to keep the program going indefinitely.