Tampa organization brings healthcare access to local barbershops

TAMPA, Fla. — The buzz of the clippers. The chatter of conversations. Barbershops are a comfortable place to sit back, relax, and have a great conversation while getting a fresh cut.

“It’s a place that is not intimidating, that they don’t mind coming,” said Antoinette Davis.

But Antoinette Davis isn’t sitting inside Battle Cutz, a Tampa barbershop, on a Tuesday evening for a haircut.

She’s there for the conversational aspect of the barbershop and her goal is to open the door to a lesser had conversation.

“We know through our lived experience that men are the least likely to go to the doctor. So we’re bringing the doctors to them in this particular setting,” she said.

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Antoinette Davis is the president and CEO of Envision Resolution, an organization that focuses on public health and the black community.

“Back in 2022, I led an effort to ask our Board of County Commission to declare racism a public health crisis. And it was really at that time and looking at all of the data and information that supports what we know already as our lived experience,” she explained. “Our parents and fore-parents have had chronic diseases, and we see them pass down through the generations. And so that research really connected the historical hurt and harm that is there that really plays out in the health disparities that we see today.”

That history was the catalyst for Barbershop Real Talk, a series she’s launching with two barbershops in Tampa.

“Our barbershop initiative really is an effort to bring the medical experience and exposure to a place where men like to be,” she said. “We know through our lived experience that men are the least likely to go to the doctor. So we’re bringing the doctors to them in this particular setting.”

These health talks happen at two different locations in Tampa: Sheer Excellence and Battle Cutz. We were there for the May session at Battle Cutz, which catered to Mental Health Awareness Month.

Cornelius Battle, the barbershop owner, says it was a no-brainer to join in the initiative.

“Talking to different clients over the years, you start to see that a lot of guys, I care about my health, but a lot of guys that kind of neglect their health. So when she came with this opportunity, I was like, this sounds pretty good,” he told me.

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Now, every first Tuesday of the month, Battle leaves his doors open a little bit longer.

Once his last head has been cut, medical professionals move in to transform the space. They set up a table to perform diagnostic testing and be there for anyone who may not know where their health is going.

“I had one guy, he said one of his friends, he’s trying to get him to come, but he didn’t come, and I think the next week the guy had a stroke because he had he didn’t know he had high blood pressure,” said Battle.

It gives men a simple way to prioritize their health. While those diagnostic tests happen every time, the topic of focus changes every month.

May’s meeting focused on stress. Cedric Carrington sat among the crowd of men, ready to hear more about dealing with stress.

“This is a testament to the partnership between Antoinette, her organization as well as Battle Cutz. I am very serious about my health, but I’ve never been able to get a screening so quickly with people on hand. So it’s very beneficial,” he said.

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David Wells was also there for the conversation.

“They’re out in the community, and they’re trying to get people to realize what to do clear that everyday stress situations that people get in,” Wells said.

As the group discussed stress, many in the crowd shared their own experiences dealing with it.

Carrington is proud because he’s seeing more opportunities to talk about health pop up in the black community.

“I think we are getting better now with identifying issues and addressing them to achieve wellness, balanced wellness, physical, mental, emotional, you name it,” Carrington said.

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“What we hear from the guys who come is, it’s just a challenge for them really to pause and prioritize themselves in a way that they’re not accustomed to doing. And a lot of it, we’ve talked about being a cultural thing as well, that the man is kind of providing for everybody else and carries a lot of the stress on his shoulder,” Davis explained.

These health and wellness check-ins happen every first Tuesday of the month at Battle Cutz and every fourth Tuesday of the month at Sheer Excellence. You can also join virtually.

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