Listen to Jhumpa Bhattacharya and Jahmil Lacey discuss TRAPMedicine, a community-driven public health initiative designed to create accessible pathways to health literacy, services, and care.


Jahmil Lacey, a public health researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, is working to address health disparities among African American men in underserved locations around the Bay Area. A team of physicians, researchers, public health advocates, and community organizations have all come together to launch a new health initiative that cares for people, not profits.

Lacey’s effort is called TRAPMedicine, which leverages the cultural capital of barbershops as an upstream strategy for addressing disparities in chronic disease and mental health among African American men and boys. Culture and trust are the two pillars of this initiative and what we need to focus on to achieve equity,” says Lacey. From his previous experiences managing school-based health centers and running high school youth programs, he has learned that in order to see sustainable improvements the community must have trust in your understanding of their culture and, most importantly, in you.

Understanding that men and their barber have a deep bond, Lacey plans to launch this initiative in barber shops across the Bay Area. If a Black man trusts you with his hair line, they will trust you with their health,” chuckles Lacey. “I’ve always found [the barber shop] to be a unique, safe space for men to talk about everything, from the Warriors to safe sex.  

TRAPMedicine was designed to close the gap between the patient and the health care provider, with the barber acting as a convenor. We’re going to focus on screening for conditions that we know are prevalent among black men – diabetes, hypertension, high blood pressure, and mental health. Lacey hopes to provide not only upfront care and screenings but, most importantly, follow-up care and information to those who need it most. Lacey believes that this is where you can lose trust – by not offering follow-up appointments or not providing more information later on to those in need.”

On December 31, 2016, TRAPMedicine will officially launch the pilot program at Legends Barber Shop in East Oakland. On this day, members of the community can receive free health screenings from 10am to 4pm. The barber shop will also offer free haircuts for people who participate in the screenings. Food will be provided.

The group plans to provide various support groups to Bay Area barber shops to further engage community members in nonjudgmental conversations. People are more likely to be influenced by their peers than by a doctor,” explains Lacey. By operating outside the walls of a hospital, TRAPMedicine will encourage men of color to build a community around health.

In these ways, Lacey’s initiative seeks to not only address health disparities, but the underlying economic inequities that give rise to them. It’s stressful to be poor. This disease creates disease,” says Lacey. “Broadly speaking, I hope we can create and develop safe spaces for men to support each other, to share information about employment, mental health, manhood, and to ultimately increase health literacy in these communities.”

TRAPMedicine is looking for volunteers who have experience in the medical field or public health research, and who have experience working with people of color. If you would like to learn more or get involved, email Jahmil Lacey at jahmil.lacey@gmail.com or trapmedicine@gmail.com. To stay-up-to-date about this initiative, you can follow TRAPMedicine on Facebook and Instagram.

To listen to the full conversation, use the audio player above or subscribe to the Hidden Truths podcast on iTunes.


UPDATE: On December 31, 2016, Jahmil Lacey of TRAPMedicine – in partnership with the Alameda County Public Health Department, UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Roots Community Health Center – organized a Community Listening Session and Health Screening event to officially launch the pilot program at Legends Barber Shop in East Oakland.

The event was attended by over 60 people. During the listening session, healthcare providers from Roots provided on-site blood pressure and blood sugar screenings while barbers provided free haircuts to the attendees. The event was capped off by a guided community forum on the health impacts of poverty, Oakland’s housing crisis, and law enforcement interactions.

Attendees overwhelmingly supported the idea of continuing the effort, and TRAPMedicine is in the process of organizing follow-up activities in partnership with Legends Barbershop.


Jahmil Lacey is a public health researcher at the University of California, San Francisco; the manager of a housing facility for young adults with chronic mental health issues; and an Insight Center for Community Economic Development Board member.