Founder, Men’s Health and Education Center
Aaron Perry started the first Men’s Health and Education Center inside JP Hair Design, which his organization’s website describes as “Madison’s largest black barbershop.” It was there that he heard story after story from black men who were confronting a range of health problems yet rarely sought medical help, much less preventative care. Armed with a $300,000 grant from the University of Wisconsin, Perry and the Rebalanced-Life Wellness Association now offer blood-pressure screening, diabetes monitoring and flu shots in the barbershop’s back room and are expanding to other barbershops in Wisconsin.
As a result, Perry now ranks among the country’s preeminent community health advocates for black men. It’s a mission that is very personal: It took two years before Perry’s own type 2 diabetes was diagnosed, despite frequent visits to his primary care physician.
Perry views the status quo as a crisis, and one that nobody seems able or willing to address. To wit, life-expectancy rates for black men living in Wisconsin lag behind those for white men by seven years; black men in Dane County are more likely to be obese or diabetic than their white peers.
“Men do actually talk about their health challenges, but we have to be better prepared as a community to respond to those,” Perry told Madison’s The Capital Times last year.