Born in Chicago but raised in Atlanta, Andrew Suggs is a man who saw a void in our community and has used his knowledge to create something that would ease the uncomfortable conversation and promote healthy change with Live Chair. Live Chair originally started off as a scheduling and booking company for Black barbers but would eventually pivot into including healthcare. Health and wellness is a conversation that has been rarely discussed for years and because of this Black men are likely to die from diseases that could have been avoided if detected and treated early. The barbershop has been a safe haven for men and conversation for decades and now with the addition of Live Chair, health is now one of those conversations. Live Chair merges the two worlds in hopes that early detection occurs and truthful conversations are had.
What inspired you and what was the goal when creating Live Chair Health?
Originally it started as a booking, scheduling, management, and payment processing service for Black barbers but being Black men ourselves we realized the health disparities were so wide between African American males and the general population. We realized Black men weren't going to doctors or getting the recommended care that they deserved and needed to prevent them from living shorter lives. They don't go to the doctors but they go to their barbers. They don't trust doctors or the health system but they trust their barbers. So we had an epiphany and decided to bring health services to the shop where we can engage men that look like us. That, coupled with my father having congestive heart failure and realizing there are a lot of men that look like my father that are battling the same things and it's not being addressed. That was the final straw that led me to pivot the company from scheduling and booking to Live Chair Health.
Why is health in our community important? What do you hope to change?
When you think of the wealth disparities between African American men and other ethnic groups, we are living the shortest lives. How can you ever close the gap if there is a 5 to 20 year difference in lifespan? So if you die, like my father at the age of 56 and someone on the same trajectory lives to be 76 years old then that's 20 years less income that my family doesn't benefit from. Health is wealth. I would also say the quality of life while we are here plays an important roll in not placing the burden on other people. I hope with Live Chair we can change that.
Why now is health becoming more important?
We have a higher rate of COVID-19 infections and we don't have primary care providers that we go to regularly. We aren't getting the testing we need and people are more scared to step into facilities to get tested for COVID and a legacy of Chronic diseases that need to be addressed.
What do you feel the barbershop signifies for a Black man and why was it important to connect with the barbershop?
The barbershop is that place of trust. Think of it in terms of how many people you let get near your face. Your barber is allowed to touch your face for 30 minutes to an hour, so you have that trust. You are opening yourself up to this person to groom you but you also feel compelled to share secrets. It's a very therapeutic environment. Also, the community aspect where you have men regardless of income or status, you can talk about everything. If we can talk about sports, politics then why can't we talk about our health? If we don't talk about our health then we are not going to live long enough to talk about those other topics.
If you are a barber and looking for more information, visit Live Chair.