Doctors take high blood pressure message to black barbershops

Black barbershops can help clients lower blood pressure study

Black barbershops can help clients lower blood pressure study

A new study looked at 319 black male patrons of 52 black-owned barbershops with uncontrolled hypertension (systolic BP 140 mm Hg or higher).

"Drug therapy in barbershops by specialty trained pharmacists, as compared with standard therapy by primary care practices, resulted in much larger BP reduction in the shops' hypertensive patients", Ronald G. Victor, MD, director of the hypertension center and associate director of the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai, said during a presentation.

"Non-Hispanic black men have the highest rate of hypertension-related death of any racial, ethnic, or sex group in the United States", the authors wrote in their introduction.

The remaining men (132) were randomly assigned to receive regular monitoring (at least once per month) and active medication management by a pharmacist who met them at the barbershop.

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Men in the first group met with barbers who encouraged them to speak with specially trained pharmacists during their monthly barbershop appointments. Diastolic blood pressured dropped by 4 mm Hg in this group.

The findings were published today in The New England Journal of Medicine and presented as Late-Breaking Clinical Trial at the American College of Cardiology's 67th Annual Scientific Session and Expo in Orlando. "It's a no-brainer that black men are at the highest risk of high blood pressure". At six months, 100 percent of those seeing a pharmacist and 63 percent of those seeing only a barber were taking blood pressure medications. The new study is unique because it combined barbershop-based health outreach with the delivery of care by medical professionals at the barbershop and evaluated subsequent efficacy with a randomized trial.

Muhammad was so committed to the cause of reducing hypertension in his community that he not only recruited his own patrons for the study, but also helped recruit 50 other barbershops to participate. Dr. Victor has a very honest desire to bring down blood pressure in people in general, and in black men in particular.

Previous studies have shown that equipping barbers-who remain trusted, consistent and convenient influencers for many African-American men-with health information can positively affect health.

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One pharmacist who took part in the study explained the advantages of offering blood pressure treatment at a barbershop.

"There is a different level of trust and respect that's earned when you meet people where they are, instead of in a hospital or clinic", Blyler said.

That pharmacist would measure the men's blood pressure, encourage lifestyle changes and prescribe blood pressure medication. While high blood pressure is a common problem among many American adults, African-American men are more likely than other groups to have high blood pressure that is not adequately controlled and tend to have less contact with the health care system. It is often challenging to get people who need blood pressure medication to take them, even as costs and side effects have gone down over the years.

Researchers have started a second phase of the study to determine if the effects are sustained for an additional six months.

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