First published October 25, 2021.
Aaron Perry’s mission has been to help improve Black men’s health and to lessen persistent racial disparities in a variety of health-related categories in Madison, in Wisconsin, and beyond.
“If you see something in your community don’t walk past it, don’t run past it, don’t cycle past it,” says Perry, the first African American diabetic to complete the Ironman Triathalon. “Just stop and ask yourself, ‘Is this something I can help with?’ That’s it. That’s what we have to be better at in this community.”
Perry is the founder of Rebalanced-Life Wellness Association, the organization that launched the groundbreaking Men’s Health and Wellness Center inside of JP Hair Design, the largest black barbershop in Madison. The Center is an innovative health model for reducing health disparities that works with businesses, corporations, community-based organizations, health educators and the faith community to create an awareness of the major health concerns affecting African Americans and to actively promote a healthier lifestyle.
This past Thursday, Perry and his Rebalanced-Life Wellness Association were featured on national TV, Robin Roberts’ “Thriver Thursday,” a new initiative that spotlights “thrivers” – people who persevere, achieve their goals and even surpass them despite life-altering circumstances.
“It was nice that they reached out to us, but more that they saw value in what we’re doing to put this on national TV,” Perry tells Madison365. Perry first found out that his organization was on Roberts’ radar back in early May.
“They heard about the Men’s Health Magazine nomination and in the course of doing that they started doing their own research and concluded that this would be a great story to share with the nation,” Perry remembers. Perry was featured as one of five global leaders who are changing the world of health in Men’s Health Magazine last year. “I was very pleased that Robin Roberts saw such a value in the work that we are doing and was willing to share our company in ‘Thriver Thursday’ and be represented on her platform.”
Perry says that he has always been a big fan of Roberts.
“Robin Roberts has that book out titled ‘Everybody’s Got Something’ and that really resonated with me because that is what we’re dealing with,” Perry says. “Everybody’s got something. What we try to do with my organization is to try and find out what is that something that Black men are dealing with.
“What we know is that all Black men are not dealing with poor health. We know that. We are focused on those guys who could use a little intervention and a little support to move them back to center because what we know is that life can knock you off-center sometimes,” he adds. “Our challenge is getting people back to center.”
Since he first started the Men’s Health and Wellness Center, Perry has been honored with numerous accolades. He appeared on Megyn Kelly Show and was honored as one of Time Magazine’s 2018 “50 Most Influential People in Health Care.” In the March 2020 issue of Men’s Health, the world’s largest men’s magazine brand, Perry was featured as one of five global leaders who are changing the world of health.
“I’m pretty proud of that. We’ve got Men’s Health Magazine, we got TIME Magazine, we got Catholic Health Newspaper,” he says. “That, in itself, is 120 million subscribers and so literally getting in all of these various publications means that we get exposed to potentially 120 million people and that’s how you really get the word out on what you’re trying to do.”
Within one hour of airing his story on national TV, Perry was contacted by quite a few men.
“Over 90 Black men across the country reached out requested assistance in getting their health back on track,” he says. “So we’re really pleased with that.
“One guy, in particular, wrote that he’s 61 years old. He’s retiring in December and he realized that working every day he got completely away from taking care of his health, so he wants to make his retirement about getting his health back on track. It’s really powerful stuff,” Perry adds.
Perry wants people in the community to know that his organization is there for them and their health needs.
“Basically, I saw a problem in the community. I sought out many of our elected officials, people in high positions. I even invited the County Board Supervisor to come and visit,” Perry says. “The reality is that there was this sense that nobody truly understood what we’re doing but we hung in there and we continue to do the work that we’ve done.
“To date, we’ve served over 5,800 Black men. That’s 36.3 percent of the Black male population in Dane County,” Perry adds. “We’re really excited that we are now expanding to a free health clinic for uninsured Black men. That is the next thing on the horizon for us for ReBalanced Life.”
The new Perry Family Free Clinic for Uninsured Black Men Centered Care will be part of the organization’s expansion and located inside JP Hair Design, Perry adds.