Men’s Corner: Barbershops Make A Difference In The Health of Black Men

Barber daps customer in barbershop
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There continues to be a growing issue and alarming disparity concerning the overall health of the Black man. Black men have the lowest life expectancy and the highest death rate from specific causes than men and women of other ethnic groups. They live seven years less than men of other racial groups and have higher death rates than Black women for all leading causes of death.

It seems that the barbershop is the only place where Black men will let down their guard and talk amongst themselves. That’s when Andrew Suggs came up with an innovative idea to help the fellas in our life.

Hype Hair recently spoke with Andrew, who is the co-founder and CEO of Live Chair Health, to discuss the purpose of his company and their efforts to address the striking health disparities of Black men.


HYPE HAIR: How did the idea of “Live Chair Health” come to fruition? 

ANDREW: Just like any other entrepreneur, my co-founders and I saw a need in the marketplace where Black barbers specifically had limited tools to run their operations efficiently. So we sought out to create booking and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software to fill that void.     

HH: Why was the decision made to implement “Live Chair Health” in barbershops? 

ANDREW: We started the business off as a CRM in scheduling software, but in 2017, my father’s health began to decline. One of my co-founders started to research health disparities and what we found was very glaring. The national life expectancy gap between Black men and the general population was five years. Actually, where I live in Maryland, it is seven years, and in some pockets, it is 10, 15, or even 20 years. So when you think about the life expectancy gap, Black men having 45% higher cases of hypertension overall, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), you have got to ask yourself why. We know the historical mistrust of the health care system dating back to slavery, Jim Crow, and the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment. That mistrust has led Black men specifically not to engage in their health care and not to trust the system. But who they do trust are their barbers. Where they do go is the barber and not the doctor. So we said that we have this audience where they are seeing the same people every two weeks. So, why not try to be a bridge-builder and implement health care services. From there, we fully pivoted away from the scheduling software to do healthcare.   

HH: How does Live Chair Health work? 

ANDREW: Live Chair Health is enabling health care organizations to engage, access, influence, and track hard to reach minority members in improving health care outcomes and health care utilization through barbershops, and very soon, hair salons. We aid in servicing new health risks and help clients manage their existing health conditions. During pre-COVID-19, we equipped barbers with blood pressure cuffs, weight scales, and Body Mass Index (BMI) sheets. Our original focus was on hypertension, and when COVID-19 hit, a lot of barbershops and hair salons were closed. So when it was time to reopen, we tailored our model to help prevent the spread by equipping these shops with infrared thermometers so that temperatures can be checked, and we retrofitted the shop with a COVID-19 Kiosk that prompted clients to answer a few COVID-19 questions. If a client said yes to one of those questions around certain symptoms, we connected them with one of our health care providers to have them evaluated to see if a test was needed. In addition to that, there are a few triggers that we have automated, like helping clients connect with a primary care provider. Many members that we are serving are not seeing a doctor. Lastly, we have clients fill out a health questionnaire or health risk assessment, which really gives them and us a baseline of where they stand. So then we can use those data insights to get them assistance, whether it is connecting with the primary care physician, helping people get health insurance, or giving resources to eat a more healthy diet. We have a lot of resources that we are plugging in, so we are not just a resource center. We have a tool that is in development that is going to continuously be able to be downloaded on an app where a client can engage in their health inside and outside of the barbershop.

Live Chair Health Flyer
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HH: What kind of feedback have you received since the implementation of Live Chair Health in barbershops? 

ANDREW: I think when the pandemic first hit and everyone was sheltered in and then shops reopened. Everyone had a sense of wanting to go back to the shop because they missed their barber, but they also wanted to be safe. So when we reached out to a few of the barbers that we have partnered with, they were elated to be able to say that this is absolutely awesome because it provides the clients with a level of safety or comfort that the shop is doing everything in their power to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect them. I think the barbers were happy about it, and the clients were happy, too. Because any time you go into an establishment where you are looking to get one thing and then that experience is exponentially greater, (it’s) because the owners are going above and beyond the call of duty. We have this saying, “Barbers and groomers help clients look good,” but now they can help them feel good. I think when clients walk into shops, they have a sense of feeling good because they know they are protected.          

For more information, visit https://www.livechair.co/work-with-us or search for Live Chair Inc. on Facebook. The company can also be found on Instagram and Twitter (@livechairinc)

About The Author

Shanessa Fenner

Dr. Shanessa Fenner is a principal, TV show host, writer, former radio personality, model, and actress. In her free time she loves to read, write, take naps, and watch movies.