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GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. – “Dodge the Punch” is back! The National Kidney Foundation of Michigan (NKFM) and Mercy Health’s Browning Claytor Health Center in Grand Rapids will begin training Black barbers to implement the “Dodge the Punch” program, aimed primarily at Black men. The program empowers Black barbers to engage in health chats with their customers in the barbershop. Browning Claytor Health Center serves a section of the downtown Grand Rapids area and is seeking to care for more Black men at their facility. Funded for one year by the Mercy Health Saint Mary’s Foundation, the goal is to reach 300 men not currently being seen at the health center. After training the barbers, the NKFM will follow up regularly, focusing on successful outreach and clinic visits.

The NKFM has long worked to prevent kidney disease by focusing on preventing two of its most prevalent causes, diabetes and high blood pressure. Dodge the Punch has previously been successful in Detroit, Saginaw and other areas of Grand Rapids. Barbers can discuss health issues with customers where they already regularly congregate. Chats focus on high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, healthcare access, COVID-19, healthy food, physical activity, and sexual health. These health chats focus on Black men’s health risks and influence health choices and goal setting. For example, Black customers with hypertension will receive a free blood pressure monitor, be encouraged to start blood pressure self-monitoring and be referred to a Browning Claytor Health Center doctor through Mercy Health’s Client Services Coordinator. One of the program’s advantages is that the barbershops are in the Madison Area neighborhood, near Browning Claytor Health Center, so clinic access is not a barrier.

According to the 2020 Kent County Community Health Needs Assessment, 13.1% of Black adults experienced racial discrimination when seeking health care in the year before the assessment. Additionally, Black adults are more likely than their White counterparts to have an increased risk of chronic disease and mortality, are two times as likely to have diabetes or prediabetes, and 1.7 times as likely to have high blood pressure.

“High blood pressure is one of the problems that lead black men to kidney failure, so the program is a good fit for NKFM. Many black men have had high blood pressure with no symptoms since they were teenagers. It’s one of the ways to get Black men in to Browning Claytor Health Center,” states Val Cobbs, NKFM Senior Regional Manager. “We feel positive that we can make some changes. We want to make sure that these men get into health care.”

For more information, call the NKFM at 616-458-9520.

About Mercy Health

Mercy Health, a member of Trinity Health, is a regional, multi-campus, Catholic health care system serving West Michigan and the lakeshore with 3 hospital campuses, 736 hospital beds, and more than 8,000 colleagues, as well as hospice, home health and long-term care service offerings. Mercy Health is committed to being a trusted health partner for life, transforming the communities we serve, by providing high-quality care that is the most accessible, compassionate and personalized in West Michigan. MercyHealth.com

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