Florida Congressman Alcee Hastings today introduced a resolution to recognize the Black Barbershop Health Outreach Program, an initiative that attempts to improve the health of the black community by going to that community in barbershops and hair salons, long known to be informal meeting places for African Americans.

Florida Congressman Alcee Hastings today introduced a resolution to recognize the Black Barbershop Health Outreach Program, an initiative that attempts to improve the health of the black community by going to that community in barbershops and hair salons, long known to be informal meeting places for African Americans.

“The black barbershop is an institution in the African American community, providing a trusted and familiar place for many black men to receive health information and services that they would otherwise not have access to,” further noted Hastings.

To date, the Black Barbershop Health Outreach Program has screened over 10,000 men in 230 black-owned barbershops for diabetes, hypertension, and prostate cancer across the country. The project’s organizers plan to screen 20,000 men in 2010 and 500,000 men by 2012.

Too often, I think, people try to fix black Americans’ ills with solutions believed to work in white communities, frequently to the detriment of everyone. For instance, the mandatory sentencing law enacted in 1986 that required anyone caught with five grams of crack to serve five years in prison didn’t eliminate crack in black communities, it just saw a lot of blacks go to jail. Chalk it up to political correctness, but the belief that all human beings are inherently the same—while true—does not mean that the species’ sub-groups and their problems should all be treated equally. It’s like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, and it’s naïve.

Going into black barbershops and screening for diabetes is the sort of commonsense innovation black Americans are going to need to thrive in the future, and doing so proved to be so impactful that Washington, DC, enacted a similar plan to distribute female condoms throughout its citizenry.

Now if only we could teach the barbers to strengthen the gun control laws…

-Cord Jefferson is a staff writer at The Root. Follow him on Twitter.