JACKSON, Miss.—Damion Portis is a barber, marketer and graphic artist by trade, but he’s used to investigating his clients’ health.
“I first started in the Healthy Heart Care Initiative,” he told the Mississippi Free Press in an Oct. 18 interview. Portis runs Klean Jokers Master Barber Art Studio in Jackson. As part of a partnership with the Mississippi State Department of Health, he gave out free blood-pressure screenings to identify early signs of hypertension or heart disease.
“(The program) specifically targets those people who are disenfranchised, who may not have health insurance, and who typically do not go to get health checkups—(but) may be suffering from hypertension, diabetes and such,” Portis said. “High blood pressure is the number-one killer in the African American community.”
The program is a pragmatic concession to a real problem in Mississippi’s Black community. Lack of health insurance leads to a lack of preventative care, which results in worse health outcomes. Portis’ blood-pressure screenings served as ad-hoc interventions: on-ramps for preventative health-care for individuals who may not have otherwise encountered the medical system.