Matthew Wood, March 3, 2017

It?s no surprise your life gets a little better after a visit to the barber shop. But Al Edmondson went above and beyond providing his customers with a cut or an up-do.

The Columbus, Ohio, native saw a need for health screening services in his East Side neighborhood, so he formed a partnership with the College of Nursing at The Ohio State University to make it happen.

The program, Making a Difference, is based in the Mount Vernon neighborhood, offering health screenings for illnesses that affect the residents there. Edmondson provides space in his barber and beauty shop, A Cut Above The Rest, for nurses to conduct tests.

A mural in A Cut Above The Rest barbershop


?I wanted to find a way to get more African-Americans in the neighborhood in for screenings for things like diabetes and cancer,? he says. ?I reached out to (OSU) to see if they wanted to have students come out. We decided to partner and go after some funding.?

That led to a grant that got the program going. It also led to a partnership that has lasted for nearly a decade.

?After our initial funding grant, we wanted to be able to serve the people of Near East Side and the community,? says Elizabeth Fitzgerald, an associate professor of clinical nursing at OSU who works with the program. ?You have to maintain what you started. That helps build trust and credibility. We felt very strongly, looking at the physical issues, that there was [also] a high level of stress. So we wanted to expand [our services] for mental health programs.?

That original program has spawned a number of offshoots, including one called ?Ask a Buckeye Nurse.? The goal is to provide an innovative health program that lets the community learn more about health issues while giving nursing students much-needed clinical experience in the field.

From these programs, the university has served more than 1,000 patients in just the past three years, making hundreds of doctor referrals to people who may need more care.

?As you look at issues of health and wellness, we really need to look at these partnerships that extend beyond the walls of the university,? says Barbara Warren, a professor of clinical nursing at OSU who helps run the project. ?We want to make sure we are really going out in the community, providing services and care and resources so they can have that.?

OSU nurses and students help make health a community priority


The university just completed a number of focus groups looking at what resources are most needed in the community. From that, the nursing department can better tackle issues that really affect people in the neighborhood. More importantly, they can educate nursing students on how to address those needs.

?One of the important things about this program is that we continue to have student involvement,? Warren says. ?They?re going to be practitioners in these communities. They?re going to want to go back and have a strong commitment to it. They are the future.?

For those involved with the program, getting screened at the barber shop is a great resource to have.

?A lot happens in barber and beauty shops, so it?s really been a trusting environment for us,? Warren says. ?While they wait for haircut, can get blood screening and test and then be on their way.?

Edmondson estimates they save at least a few lives every year by screening at-risk people who might not otherwise find out just how severe their health problems may be.

?They really appreciate (the services),? he says. ?People will come on lunch breaks to get checked. The nurse may say, ?You have to take it easy.? It may save their lives. A little bit at a time. Every step makes a difference, that?s my motto.?