One of Madison’s best-kept secrets is about to become national news this morning. The Rebalanced-Life Wellness Association (RLWA)’s Men’s Health and Education Center and JP’s Hair Design will be featured on the Megan Kelly Today television show for their innovative partnership for the promotion of good health for African-American men here in Madison.

Aaron Perry, the founder of RLWA, and Dr. Jasmine Zapata, who has been working for Perry’s organization for the last seven years, will be on the show live today in New York City representing the Men’s Health and Education Center. The people at Megyn Kelly Today got word of the unique collaboration between JP Hair Design and the RLWA Men’s Health & Education Center, located inside the bustling barbershop, and they came to Madison last weekend to find out more.

Aaron Perry and Dr. Jasmine Zapata will be on Megyn Kelly Today at 9 a.m. this morning.

Megyn Kelly Today is a daytime talk show that premiered on Sept. 25, replacing Today’s Take as the third hour of NBC’s national morning show Today. The program is hosted by Megyn Kelly, who had joined NBC News earlier in the year after leaving Fox News Channel.

“They found out about it and they asked Aaron [Perry] to send any video, pictures, promotions of the Men’s Health & Education Center and what they’ve been doing,” Jeff “JP” Patterson, owner of JP Hair Design, tells Madison365. “So we set them the videos from all of the new stations here in Madison – [channels] 27, 15, and 3. MGE also did a video story. We sent them all of that and Aaron sent more information about the Center. They got all of that and told us we made the cut!”

The Men’s Health & Education Center is the brainchild of Perry, the founder and CEO of Rebalanced Life Wellness Association, a Dane County organization that focuses on reducing health disparities. Perry is well-known in Madison as the first-ever African-American diabetic Ironman triathlete. He started the non-profit in 2007 to improve the health status of black men.

Young people hang out at the Rebalanced-Life Wellness Association (RLWA) Men’s Health & Education Center, located inside JP Hair Design Barbershop on Madison’s west side.

Since October of 2016, JP Hair Design has been home to Men’s Health and Education Center where the west side barbershop has been working to make health education more accessible for men of color.

Megyn Kelly sent a crew to Madison this past Saturday and the crew interviewed, filmed, and took pictures for about 6 hours at JP Hair Design. “They interviewed me and they interviewed a few of the guys that go to the Men’s Health & Education Center,” Patterson says. “They videoed Aaron with his Black Men Run group. They interviewed Dr. Jasmine Zapata. It was wonderful. They took pictures of us cutting hair, too. It was real nice. It was a good vibe.”

JP, have you ever been on national TV before?

“National? I’ve been on plenty locally. I don’t think I’ve ever been on national TV that I can think of,” he says. “It’s a pretty big deal. I’m excited to see it.”

Patterson cherishes the partnership he has with Perry and the impact they are making on men’s health in the community. He remembers how it all began.

“Aaron’s approach individually on this partnership was key. Back in July of ’16, he called me and said that he had an idea to partner up on this Men’s Health & Education Center,” Patterson remembers. “He told me that had been to the churches and been to the Urban League and in different areas, but he just couldn’t get the numbers. He said, ‘With the number of black men you have coming into the barbershop, this could be a match made in heaven.'”

Aaron Perry gets ready to be interviewed by Megyn Kelly’s crew.

JP’s Hair Design serves approximately 600 men a week and hundreds of those men have walked through the doors of the Men’s Health and Education Center.

JP thought about it and knew that it was the right fit. “Of course, being a barber and being the owner of a successful business, I get a lot of people who come and have great ideas but it doesn’t resonate in my heart like this idea did. This idea was a no-brainer,” Patterson says. “JP Hair Design partnering up with the Men’s Health & Education Center to help prolong and give a better quality of life to our customers. That’s great. We need to figure out how to do this.”

Which wasn’t easy, because, well, there was no room for it at JP’s initially.

“But our neighbors next door ended up moving out and we were able to get a room adjacent to our space that was actually against the wall of our shop. So we were able to put a glass patio door in that wall to that room which made his office,” Patterson remembers. “It was something that was supposed to happen. We made it work.”

The Men’s Health and Education Center has people who are can answer almost every type of health question and is filled with literature about the most critical health issues facing black men such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

At the adjacent barbershop, you have men who love to talk about sports, politics, movies, music. Now they talk about health issues, too.

“All the time. The health conversation does happen now due to Aaron having his Men’s Health & Education Center right here in the shop. Aaron has been really good at not just throwing a bunch of health information at the guys coming in, he’s letting things evolve,” Patterson says. “He’s letting people come into the center; they love to chat with him. Some guys go in to talk about an issue they are having and it’s comfortable for them to know they have somewhere to go. That’s been big. To have that access to information and expertise is huge.”

Innovative collaborations like this partnership can help put a dent in the huge racial disparities numbers that exist in health outcomes in Madison and in the United States.

“Aaron has always been talking about racial disparities in health. To be honest, before our partnership, I didn’t really realize how bad the disparities were,” Patterson says. “The education part is so important. Knowing that if I eat right and treat my body right I will live longer. Knowing the importance of exercise and knowing your family history. That’s the kind of stuff that we’re able to put in front of their customers that will help prolong their lives.”

Something really resonated with Patterson after the interview was when Megyn Kelly crew actually asked JP whether they feel like they’ve saved anybody’s life.

“I know in the interview, I was like, ‘Yeah, we help prolong people’s lives and hopefully give them a better quality of life.’ But in my mind, there’s only one person that saves someone and that is God, that’s Jesus. For me, to say we saved someone, that doesn’t feel right,” Patterson says. “But I do feel good about saying that we are helping people live longer and have a better quality of life … and that we are making a little difference in our community.”

The wonderful work of the Men’s Health Education Center inside JP barbershop will be featured on the Megyn Kelly Show today at 9 a.m.

Written by David Dahmer

David Dahmer

A. David Dahmer is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Madison365.