By Anya Nawrocky, Amerigroup New Jersey

· A recent nationwide poll found that 7 in 10 Black Americans believe the healthcare system mistreats them.

· Approximately 55 percent of Black Americans distrust the healthcare system.

· Black Americans are more likely than their white counterparts to say that they do not trust their physician.

· People who say they mistrust their healthcare providers are less likely to follow medical advice, keep doctors’ appointments or fill prescriptions.

· People who mistrust the healthcare system are more likely to be in poor health.

Trust has the power to create human ties, prompt deep conversations, increase knowledge, and shape healthy behaviors that improve lives. However, when this trust doesn’t exist between a medical provider and a patient, it can lead to untreated health conditions, misdiagnosis, and lower quality of care.

It can be challenging to build trustful relationships between medical providers and their diverse patients throughout the multicultural neighborhoods in New Jersey. Generations of racism and mistreatment have caused many minorities to mistrust the medical community. This mistrust has also created walls that have separated minority populations from the resources and supports that can help them live longer, happier lives. It’s essential to break down those walls and build a new foundation of trust – even if that has to start outside the traditional healthcare setting.

Amerigroup New Jersey has committed to breaking down and overcoming healthcare disparities so everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible. They are introducing innovative approaches to accessing health information and services, including partnering with Barbershops to foster human connections and healthy habits and conduct essential health screenings. Black Americans and other minority populations are sometimes more likely to trust their hair and beauty professionals than their doctors. Conversations tend to open up when people are in the stylist’s chair, so Amerigroup is positioning the barbershop experience as a health enabler by offering opportunities for people to visit local barbershops and access free health resources and get free haircuts for doing it.

Starting this June and ongoing throughout 2022, Amerigroup is inviting its members to attend various events we will be hosting called Haircuts and Health checks. During these events, free health screenings and haircuts will be offered to anyone willing to show up and join the conversation. There will be health checks, enjoyable social experiences, and advice on living a longer, healthier life. It’s an opportunity to change outlooks on health and look good while doing it. In addition to blood pressure and BMI screenings at the barbershop, education will be provided on prevalent conditions found in men that, if unchecked, can lead to further decline in health. Topics to be discussed include heart disease, cancer, and harmful behaviors like alcohol and tobacco use. The objective is to open the conversation with members about behaviors they can adopt to reduce risks and empower them to seek the best care from their providers by asking thoughtful and relevant questions.

The first event is held on June 28th from 11-6 pm at New City Cuts, located at 804 Central Avenue, Union City NJ. Amerigroup is partnering with North Hudson Community Action, a Federally Qualified Health Center in Hudson County, for this event. Our organizations share a common goal: to build healthier communities. Men are invited to attend this event,free haircuts, screenings, and health information will be offered. The event will focus on the health issues, and disparities men commonly face.

Anya Nawrocky is director of Membership Growth and Experience at Amerigroup New Jersey

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