Project Brotherhood: Improving the Health and Wellbeing of Black Men

Objective: To provide the medical and social services necessary to improve the overall health and well being of the black men in the community, as well as lay a foundation for black youth to maintain control over their own health.

Description: Project Brotherhood (PB) offers services that address a wide range of issues, such as medical, social services, fatherhood, manhood development/rites of passage, mentoring and counseling.

In addition to on-site services, PB provides resources and linkages to other Chicago area services.

One of the real strengths of PB has been the multi-disciplinary nature of the program. PB understands that it takes more than just doctors to improve the health status of black men. They have a team of health professionals and non-professionals working together to reach all levels of men. Black male physicians, residents and medical students provide culturally sensitive and gender specific comprehensive health care. Social workers are available during every session to facilitate a weekly social support group, scheduled fatherhood and manhood courses, provide individual counseling, mock interviews and resume writing assistance.

Innovative methods to reach black men include having a barber in the clinic that cuts hair for free during each session, and routinely having a Playstation in the clinic and basketball hoop set up in the parking lot where condoms and HIV prevention talks are delivered. Lay health workers distribute health education and promotion materials at local barbershops, a summer softball league and on streets. The program is designed to meet the men where they are. Free food is always featured as part of the PB sessions, and is served by young student workers. Staff routinely provides public transit fare cards for men needing transportation assistance to PB or job interviews. The entire clinic staff changes attitudes for PB starting with attire. Staff traditionally wears PB gear (t-Shirts, sweatshirts, denim shirts with PB logo) to help create a relaxed comfortable barbershop environment where black men feel safe addressing both medical and social issues.

The opportunity for men to interact with black male physicians outside of the exam room has proven to be a critical component for winning trust from Project Brotherhood participants. The PB physician staff have deliberately rejected the “professional distance” taught in medical schools, eliminating the wearing of lab coats or ties and freely discussing common experiences and family situations with patients. The patients react positively to this approach recognizing and appreciating the commonalities with the staff.

Qi-Gong: Social conditions such as poverty, unemployment, poor educational opportunities, racism, and dangerous environments contribute to stress, despair, alcohol and drug abuse, as well as family instability for black men. PB has created a model that rejects the traditional medical paradigm and replaces it with a social justice framework. In addition to addressing the medical and social issues of black men they target stress reduction as an area for alternative therapies for health and wellness. Project Brotherhood has monthly Qi Gong meditation classes available for men. Qi Gong uses breathing techniques and slow graceful movements to develop QI and is a method for stress reduction and improves health. Qi gong visualization trains the energy of the body to invigorate internal organs to detoxify the body and promote less stress and greater health.

Barbershop: Free haircuts are available at every Thursday Project Brotherhood session. It is well known in the community that brothers can come in for a free haircut. Over the years this has been one of the biggest draws. The barber is located adjacent to the support group discussion and men are called to get haircuts during the group support session. The barber often contributes to the group as he is cutting hair. The barber is also HIV/Red Cross trained and serves as the point of contact for many of the services. If while talking to the client, as he is cutting hair, the barber uncovers some social or medical issue that needs to be addressed he promptly guides the client to a doctor or social worker for assessment and intervention.

Mentoring: Project Brotherhood’s, saving our youth initiative (S.O.Y.) has an emphasis on mentoring high school age youth. Programmatic work with young people includes a mix of art and hip-hop as venues to promote STD/HIV and unplanned pregnancy prevention, healthy decision-making and self-esteem building. Discussion topics range from how to dress properly at work to how to find the right college. Activities take place not only at PB, but within high schools, at community centers and at one of their sister health centers.

Population of Focus: Adolescents, Adults, Black or African American, Transition aged

Setting: Community health center, Urban

Level of Intervention: Community, Individual

Additional information:


Marcus Murray, Executive Director
Project Brotherhood
6337 S. Woodlawn Ave. Chicago, IL 60637