Barbershop Pharmacists: A Good Rx for High Blood Pressure

Mindy Sparks
March 13, 2018

As part of a study, these health services were provided at his barbershop and others across Los Angeles County. The results, reported Monday at a cardiology conference, have doctors planning to expand the project to more cities nationwide.

On the other hand, the barbershop represents a safe haven in the black community - a no-judgment zone - where conversations about health and other personal topics are commonplace.

Eric Muhammad, who owns New You Barbershop in Inglewood, was an eager participant. "We have a lot more influence than just the doctor walking in the door".

If employed on a broad scale, the approach could make major inroads in treating African-American men, a population that is more likely than other races to have high blood pressure ― a leading risk factor for heart disease and stroke ― and less likely to be in a doctor's care, researchers said.

"High blood pressure disproportionately affects the African-American community, and we must find new ways to reach out so we can prevent strokes, heart attacks, heart failure and early deaths", he added in a hospital news release. Many men also face geographic, cultural or other barriers to accessing adequate health care. Dr. Ronald Victor, a cardiologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, wanted to reach black men. In addition, numerous patrons in the trial lived alone, and the authors speculated "peer support at the barbershop facilitated health promotion". That study was of 17 Dallas barbershops. In that one, barbers tested patrons and referred them to doctors.

The study appears to fall in line with previous research exploring the role barbershops could have in preventing death and disease in the black community, said Dr. Joseph Ravenell, an internist at NYU Langone Health and associate professor of Population Health and Medicine at NYU School of Medicine in NY.

The new work involved 303 men and 52 barbershops. The individuals were split into two groups-one group got pamphlets and blood pressure tips during their haircuts.

Each man was assigned either to a control group or to a program, where his barber would recommend that he meet with a trained pharmacist at the barbershop. Their systolic blood pressure dropped from 155 mmHg at the start of the study to 145 mmHg after six months.

After a time phase of six months, nearly 64 percent of the men who saw a pharmacist achieved healthy blood pressure, compared to others.

Barbershop Pharmacists: A Good Rx for High Blood Pressure
Barbershop Pharmacists: A Good Rx for High Blood Pressure

Black men have the highest rates of high blood pressure compared to any other racial, ethnic or gender group.

It turned out that, when the guidance was coupled with medication, a blood pressure level of less than 130/80 was achieved among 63.6% of men who participated in the study's program, versus 11.7% of those who didn't.

"If it wasn't for the program, a lot of guys wouldn't have known they had high blood pressure", he said of the study.

Marc Sims, a 43-year-old records clerk at a law firm, is one.

Victor said trust and rapport is essential because high blood pressure a chronic condition that requires ongoing care and lifestyle changes.

"It woke me up", said Sims, who has a young son.

"I think that what's so wonderful about health outreach in the barbershop: It's a comfortable place", Blyler said. "It was time to get my health right".

In total, 309 men completed the study-representing a 95 percent cohort retention -and all received an intervention created to help them lower their blood pressure. These differential targets and measurement locations may have factored into the results, and "normotensive office readings that mask high out-of-office blood pressure are common in black patients", they wrote.

The National Institutes of Health paid for the study.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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