In trim? Men visiting Shafiq Ahmed's barber's shop on Leeds Road, Bradford are being offered something a little more radical than a crop writes David Moss-Blundell. They can have a health MOT too.
The scheme is a prime example of an innovative way of delivering a healthcare message to men: not only is the barber's shop in an unconventional location, but it's in a part of town that caters primarily to the largely Asian local population.
Customers can have a regular health MOT from North Bradford Primary Care Trust (PCT) staff, who visit the shop weekly to advise on health issues and offer services such as blood pressure, glucose and cholesterol checks.
The initiative is just one of a number of imaginative schemes introduced by a special project designed to promote men's health to Asians in Bradford, West Yorkshire. The Health of Men project, which has brought together four PCTs and a number of other diverse partner organisations, has just embarked on the second year of a five-year plan to promote men's health across the Bradford and Airedale district.
The project is aimed at the whole populace, but one of its main objectives is to target the Asian communities that account for a quarter of the district's 512,000 people and around 60% of the city's population.
'Shafiq has been an inspiration to the Health of Men team through his eagerness to allow health work to go on in his shop,' says Andrew Harrison, men's public health facilitator for the Health of Men's North Bradford primary care trust team. 'Many barbers might feel that the sight of a full shop may put customers off calling in, but Shafiq embraced the idea immediately. He feels he has a role to play in getting health messages out to the community. Men are traditionally hard to reach when it comes to health issues, but this kind of unique approach is a successful and fun way to engage them.'
Mehzar Iqbal, a bilingual healthcare support worker for the Health of Men Airedale PCT team, helps Andrew overcome language difficulties at the shop. The fact that the shop is located within the North Bradford PCT, while Mehzar is paid by Airedale PCT, demonstrates the cross-organisation fluidity the project relies upon to thrive.
The barber's shop scheme was inspired by a similar project undertaken in Walsall, organised by Jane DeVille-Almond, a nurse and trustee of Men's Health Forum. So far, around a quarter of men examined at the Leeds Road shop have been referred to mainstream healthcare providers for further investigation or support. Typical referrals are for hyperglycaemia, hypertension and obesity.
The Health of Men project was founded in 1997 by a group of like-minded health professionals who saw that the male population had particular health needs that were not being satisfied. It was originally intended to provide a forum for debate and sharing good practice, but it rapidly built links with other agencies, groups and individuals, and developed from there.
It now receives £1m from the Healthy Living Centre/New Opportunities Fund and a further £1m match funding from their partners. These include the City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council, the four primary care trusts serving the area, (Bradford City; North Bradford; Bradford South and West; and Airedale), along with other organisations, such as Education Bradford and the Worksafe charity, which encourages good health and safety practices at work.
A longer version of this article, including details of other Health of Men initiatives, appeared in issue 2 of MHF Magazine.
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