MADISON (WKOW) -- A Madison advocate for wellness is being recognized as a global leader.
When Aaron Perry was diagnosed with diabetes at age 29, he was scared.
"That was a wake-up call," he said. "But it was also a scary time. I thought, 'Am I going to die?'"
Once an avid college athlete, Perry began slipping into a sedentary lifestyle -- and it took a toll on his health. After he was diagnosed with Type I diabetes, he decided to take charge of not only his own health but the health of local African American men.
Perry founded the Rebalanced-Life Wellness Association and the Men's Health and Wellness Education Center, which operates out of Madison's largest black barbershop. This concept -- a clinic in a barbershop -- he said is effective because of the shop's significance within the community.
"It's a place where men can come, feel respected, feel welcome -- the camaraderie -- and just feel like you're among family," he said.
Perry's goal is to eliminate the health gap between black and white men.
His health and wellness center has seen such success that Men's Health magazine has named Perry one of five global leaders changing the world of health.
"We're really pleased with that because that tells us that we are on the right track," he said.
This recognition joins a string of honors Perry has already received. In 2018, he was named one of Time Magazine's "50 Most Influential People in Health Care" as well as 27 News' Jefferson Award Winner. At 43, he became the first African American diabetic to complete an Ironman triathlon.
"At the end of the day, it really was about how bad do you want this, and there was nothing that was going to stop me, including diabetes," he said.
Now, Perry hopes to replicate the wellness center model nationwide.
"We're working hard and so we're pleased that the nation is finally understanding what's happening here in Madison, Wisconsin and how this is going to influence the outcomes nationwide for black men."
The Men's Health issue featuring Perry will be released in March. In the meantime, he's working with doctors in 18 states to expand the wellness center model.