At Keeps, we’re committed to empowering health education and health equity. We believe that everyone should have access to the resources and information they need to make informed decisions about their health.
We’re proud to partner with the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health (AAIUH), which works to address disparities in access to quality healthcare for vulnerable populations in urban areas. Through this partnership, Keeps aims to support AAIUH’s mission to promote health equity, as well as the local businesses that work with the Institute to help facilitate important community outreach and education.
Arthur Ashe, the namesake of the main stadium at the US National Tennis Center, was a tennis player, author, and activist. One of the most prominent tennis players of the 1970s, Ashe won three Grand Slam titles during his decade-long professional career. After suffering a heart attack in 1979, Ashe retired from tennis, eventually undergoing two heart bypass surgeries.
In 1992, Ashe publicly announced that he was battling AIDS—he likely contracted HIV through a blood transfusion received after a heart bypass surgery. A lifelong civil rights activist, Ashe founded the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health (AAIUH) in 1992, just two months before his death at the age of 49. The AAIUH was developed to help address inadequate healthcare access and delivery in urban minority populations.
Three decades later, the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health continues to promote health equity and social justice through community-based education programs, strategic partnerships, and the preparation of a more diverse and inclusive workforce of medical professionals.
The Arthur Ashe Institute promotes health equity through local and national programs. Nationally, the institute focuses on health services and research to advance the treatment and prevention of illnesses that impact inner-city communities. In collaboration with healthcare organizations in the US and globally, the AAIUH also participates in campaigns to help spread awareness about health risks that disproportionately impact urban communities.
At the local level, the AAIUH carefully evaluates the impact that government policies have on the health of Brooklyn’s citizens. In Brooklyn communities, the Arthur Ashe Institute explores opportunities to better deliver healthcare services—this often means identifying and working to address the reasons that community members may not seek healthcare services. To meet members of the community where they are, the AAIUH prioritizes health education partnerships with non-traditional venues, like barbershops and salons.
One such program that advocates for healthier communities is the AAIUH’s Barbershop Talk with Brothers program. Since 1997, the Barbershop Talk with Brothers program has partnered with Brooklyn barbershops to help trusted neighborhood barbers become health advocates in their communities. This program works to encourage men to seek preventative health screenings and advocate for a healthier community.
As barber Brian Webb—affectionately known as “Mr. B” at KZ&C Barbershop in Brooklyn—puts it, the community barbershop is “a safe zone. It’s home base. You can come and be at home and be yourself.” The comfort and trust that many feel when they step into their local barbershop makes it a perfect venue for open, honest conversations about the health risks that disproportionately impact urban communities.
KZ&C Barbershop is one of over 100 barbershops that participates in the Barbershop Talk with Brothers program, which serves as a model for HIV prevention in community settings. A 2014 study by the AIDS Education and Prevention Journal found that men that participated in the Barbershop Talk program were less likely to have unprotected sex. The study also found that after participating in the program, Black men felt a greater sense of community empowerment, increasing their belief that collective community effort could result in better HIV prevention.
At Keeps, we believe that everyone should have access to the tools and information they need to make informed decisions about their health. We’re proud to partner with the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health to support programs that seek to eliminate healthcare disparities.
Through the Barbershop Talk with Brothers program, Brooklyn barbershops have made a tremendous impact on the health and wellbeing of their communities. These same barbershops have faced enormous challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, which at times forced many barbers to close their businesses. By shining a light on these pillars of community and activism, we hope to help support the continued success of these businesses—and the important advocacy work they achieve.
Want to help support the incredible work of the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health? Visit the Arthur Ashe Institute’s website to learn more about their strategic initiatives and consider donating. If you’re a barber, you can also apply to join the Barbershop Talk with Brothers program.