Partnering for a Healthier Community
A former law enforcement officer and a Madison barber believe they have a winning collaboration for men's wellness.
On Madison's west side, clients of JP Hair Design can get more than a haircut or shave to help them look good. They can find information to help them feel good too.
"If you want to reach guys, you catch them when they're at their highest, and when you get that good grooming service, that's where you're at—it's a home run," Aaron Perry says.
Perry is founder of Rebalanced-Life Wellness Association, a men's health initiative run out of the popular barbershop. With a large grant from SSM Health and some funding from MGE, Perry partnered with Jeff "JP" Patterson to make health information more accessible, especially for men from communities of color. JP's barbershop seemed like a logical fit.
"When I set out to do this, I was a client of the barbershop," Perry says. "Sitting there, I used to think about, 'How can we work harder to reduce the health disparities and how can we reach more men?' I never knew four to five years later, sitting across from where I used to sit, that's where our men's health center would be. It's just meant to be."
Perry approached JP, the shop's owner, who said the partnership was a "no brainer." And within months of their initial conversation, the office opened in October 2016 to steady traffic.
"It makes me feel good that we can connect people with great information that can prolong their life," Patterson says. "That's our mission to connect people with things that are going to elevate them. If it's health, business, whatever it is, to be able to educate, elevate—that's what we want to do."
As a former law enforcement officer and member of Dane County's Gang Response Intervention Team, Perry has seen the need first-hand in Madison neighborhoods.
"That's when you really see the work that needs to be done. People are hurting, people are struggling. But the neat thing is that we have a wealth of resources in this community, and we are hoping to be a leader with the barbershop and this health initiative."
Perry's own health challenges inspired his work. He is the Ironman triathlon's first African-American diabetic to compete—and finish, not once but twice! The accomplishment more than 10 years ago sparked a passion to share his story and educate others looking to make their own lifestyle changes.
"I created a website, and I started getting emails from diabetics all over the country. That's when I realized maybe I could be a voice for the diabetic community," he says.
Today, this champion wants to take his model for men's health to the next level. Perry says eventually he hopes to offer some health screenings and sports physicals and ultimately give clients the opportunity for a "virtual," or online, visit with a doctor.
"We want to lead Dane County as the healthiest statewide for men of color to live," Perry says.
As a community partner, MGE and the MGE Foundation support efforts, nonprofits and organizations to help keep the Madison area strong and to help make life better for all who live and work here. In the last five years, the Foundation has given more than $4 million to more than 350 community organizations.
Rebalanced-Life is open Tuesday through Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. It's located at JP Hair Design, 584 Canyon Dr. in Madison.
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MGE believes in the Power of Partnerships. See how we partner throughout our community for a cleaner, more sustainable future.