Greensboro, N.C. – The American Heart Association and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) are taking health care to local North Carolina communities, including area barbershops and beauty salons, through a series of unique initiatives and grant opportunities to improve heart health among the state’s most at-risk populations.

The first program of the Blue Cross NC-sponsored initiative kicked off at The Hot Seat Studio Salon, in Greensboro. The goal of the Hair, Heart & Health program is to give local community leaders what they need to share resources with their communities on how to manage blood pressure, increase physical activity, develop healthy eating habits and identify risk factors for heart disease.

Barbershops and beauty salons have always been important social pillars in African American communities. And the relationship between a barber and their regular customers is one of mutual trust and respect, which are key when it comes to discussing personal health issues and receiving medical recommendations. Staff at seven barbershops and salons will be trained by the American Heart Association and partnering community organizations to have ongoing conversations with their clients about heart-healthy practices and the importance of regular blood pressure checks.

“We know that to improve health across the state, it’s critical to engage the local leaders, businesses and organizations that know their communities best,” said Cheryl Parquet, Director of Community and Diversity Engagement at Blue Cross NC. “That’s why we’re committed to supporting community ambassadors who have a unique ability to reach a large number of underserved people.”

Identifying At-Risk Communities
Over the past year, the American Heart Association conducted community-needs assessments and interviews to identify the areas in North Carolina with the highest-priority health issues. These assessments found that Charlotte, the Triad and the Triangle regions have increased rates of heart disease risk factors like high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes among African American and Hispanic populations.

Through an investment of $750,000 from Blue Cross NC, the American Heart Association will promote outreach and improve heart health in at-risk African American communities in Greensboro and Winston-Salem, as well as Latinx communities in Charlotte and the Triangle.

Additional efforts to improve heart health will take place in Charlotte and the Triangle later this year. As part of the Promotores de Salud (Community Health Workers) program, the American Heart Association will work with community ambassadors to spread vital heart health information and resources on CPR training, blood pressure screenings, healthy eating and more.

“The American Heart Association has a proven track record in improving heart health, and is dedicated to reaching under-resourced communities,” shared Annie Thornhill, Vice President of Community Health for the American Heart Association, Southeast. “It’s very exciting to join with Blue Cross NC to address health equity issues in our communities, and to have the opportunity to build sustainable change together.”

Mini-Grants Awarded for Heart-Healthy Initiatives
Additionally, the American Heart Association and Blue Cross NC will award mini-grants to communities wishing to implement their ideas promoting heart health and education in the Triangle (Wake, Durham, and Orange counties), the Triad (Guilford and Forsyth counties) and Charlotte (Mecklenburg, Gaston and Union counties).

Community partners are encouraged to apply for these grants, ranging from $2,500 - $10,000, to support heart-healthy policies and environments. Additional information and the mini-grant application can be found on the application website. The application deadline is March 30, 2020. 


About the American Heart Association
The American Heart Association is a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. They are dedicated to ensuring equitable health in all communities. Through collaboration with numerous organizations, and powered by millions of volunteers, they fund innovative research, advocate for the public’s health and share lifesaving resources. The Dallas-based organization has been a leading source of health information for nearly a century. Connect with them on, Facebook, and Twitter, or by calling 1-800-AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION-USA1.

About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) improves the health and well-being of our customers and communities by providing innovative health care products, services and information to more than 3.9 million members, including approximately 1.1 million served on behalf of other Blue Plans. Since 1933, we have worked to make North Carolina a better place to live through our support of community organizations, programs and events that promote good health. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. Visit Blue Cross NC online at All other marks are the property of their respective owners.