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Dr. Bill Releford: Treating Diabetes and Hypertension By Saving Lives and Limbs – at the Barbershop!
Program to be Featured on “NBC Nightly News” and “The View”
Dr. Bill Releford
Customer being screened at the barbershop
Los Angeles, CA (BlackNews.com) – Dr. Bill Releford is a medical dynamo who has gained international acclaim for launching and inspiring a national health movement that has saved lives — and limbs.
Known as the Black Barbershop Health Outreach Program, this novel initiative began in Los Angeles when Dr. Releford became alarmed over the growing number of black male patients who had diabetes and/or hypertension and had lost their limbs to this disease. In this grassroots program, Releford and a squadron of physicians, go to where black men congregate — in the barbershop.
Since its launch, the program has screened over 7000 in 16 of cities and reports that the effort is impacting lives.
As a result of the screenings held at the Barbershops, 35% have been diagnosed as having some form of cardiovascular disease and have been placed on a lifestyle program and diet that would allow them to live with the disease. In some cases, Releford reports that, it’s not uncommon to find it necessary to refer someone directly to the emergency room after receiving life-threatening test results.
This proved to save lives.
Releford reports that the Black Barbershop Health Outreach Program has saved numerous lives and transformed men who ate fried foods and engaged in destructive health habits and who were headed to an early death, to specimens of health mindful of their diets.
Dr. Releford’s elevation to becoming a health savior began when he began his private practice in 1990 in Los Angeles He founded the Diabetic Foot Institute when he determined that in approximately 70-85% of cases, amputation was recommended either prematurely or should not have been recommended at all. Overwhelmed by the devastation that a loss of limb meant to a family, the inability to contribute to the family and one’s own sense his self, his entire practice became and remains dedicated exclusively to diabetic limb salvage. It remains the core mission of the Releford Institute for Limb Salvage and Wound Care, a facility dedicated exclusively to the reduction of diabetes-related amputations in high-risk populations.
In his consultations with patients who had had the amputations, it was clear that most patients were oblivious to the standard of care that should be expected during the occurrence of a diabetic foot complication or the unfortunate recommendation for lower-extremity amputation.
His limb salvage success and philosophy was formalized in the development of the Daniel Freeman Wound Care Center where platelet-derived growth factor therapy was used to facilitate healing of chronic wounds. A multi-disciplinary approach to limb salvage was exercised where vascular surgeons, infectious disease specialist, plastic surgeons, endocrinologist and podiatrists collaborated for the benefit of salvaging a foot at risk of amputation.
To strengthen his findings, and to help his growing patient roster, he began a series of clinical trials whose findings led to the founding of The Diabetic Foot Institute. This facility has the distinction of being one of the first non-academic facilities to use bio-engineered tissue in the United States during a clinical trial. This tissue was used to create a medical procedure used to heal diabetic ulcerations and prevent unnecessary amputations.
Inspired by the results, he concluded what was apparent: African American men are disproportionately affected by diabetes and hypertension more than any other ethnic group. Creative and innovative outreach was critical.
He reasoned that a national movement was necessary to reach a broader population where he could serve and service black men on a greater level.
Says Releford, “The development of culturally specific prevention centered educational vehicles was vital and an extension of my personal mission to affect the disproportionate number of diabetes-related amputations that occur in minority communities.”
Out of this, the Black Barbershop Health Outreach Program was conceived.
“Our goal,” declares Releford, “is to facilitate education, early detection and referral to the appropriate healthcare partner in the cities where we are present. By screening African American men for both diabetes and hypertension in various barbershops around the country, we will save lives and address health care disparities from within our communities.”
The men, whose lives have been impacted through the program, span the country.
“I truly believe that the Black Barbershop Health Outreach Program saved my life. When I was tested my blood pressure was 210 / 115. I was sent directly to the emergency room. Who knows, I could have had a stroke or maybe even been dead.” — C.P. / Los Angeles
“Before I came to the Black Barbershop Program, I didn’t know I had diabetes. I knew that sugar ran in my family, but I was shocked when they told me I should go to the doctor to get a final diagnosis.” – J.A. / Harlem, New York
“I thought I was in pretty good shape at first. I went to get a haircut and saw nurses at a table in the back but didn’t pay them any attention until my barber suggested that I get tested. When I did I could see in their eyes that something was wrong. My blood pressure was 190 / 95. I immediately went to a clinic where I am now on medication and I’ve changed my diet.” — P.H. / Atlanta, GA
Dr. Releford credits The Abbott Fund, whose sponsorship has factored in the program’s success.
The Program has spawned the publication of a book he authored titled 5 Colors for Better Health (Milliken 2009). In it, he instructs the reader on the value of incorporating five colors into their diet to ward off, or manage diabetes or high blood pressure. These include a special blend of greens such as collards, kale and swiss chard, purple vegetables like purple cabbage, red bell peppers, yellow squash, white onions, garlic and leeks.
As a response to patients who craved for a product that would address the condition, Dr. Releford developed a remedy that, if used regularly, will stem the tide of diabetes and high blood pressure in our communities.
Dr. Bill Releford’s extraordinary efforts have gained him international acclaim. As part of NBC’s weekly feature that profiles those impacting lives for the better, he will be featured on The NBC Evening News with Brian Williams. The two-minute segment, titled “Making a Difference” will highlight the Black Barbershop Health Outreach Program and how it — and Dr. Releford are changing lives. Testimonials of those whose lives were enhanced through the program will also be featured. He will also be a guest on The View on Monday, April 27. Sherri Shepherd, one of the co-hosts, is a vocal supporter of the program.
He points out that while his mission has been targeted to African American men, all who suffer from diabetes and hypertension can benefit from the book and the product.
“I’m blessed to be the vessel through which so many lives have been saved and transformed,” he says. “I vow to continue to make a difference through this program and the mission.”
For more information, log on to www.blackbarbershop.org
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