Barbers Can Cut Blood Pressure Too, According To New Study
Researchers found having barbers and pharmacists work together in L.A. barbershops helped reduce patients' high blood pressure.
December 17, 2018 at 6:38 pm
Researchers in California have released the results of a study that investigated whether barbershops could be used to lower the blood pressure of Black men. The results were overwhelmingly positive, showing barbers can have a significant impact on the health outcomes of their clients.
The study looked at 319 Black men across Los Angeles County with systolic blood pressure over 140, according to CNN. Systolic blood pressure is the first number in pressure readings and is a measure of blood pressure while the heart is beating. Doctors consider 120 to be an ideal systolic blood pressure; anyone who reads above 140 is thought to have high blood pressure.
Compared to other Americans, Black Americans face a higher risk of high blood pressure and the health challenges that come with it. The American Heart Association has found more than 40 percent of Black Americans have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, with even more at risk of contracting the ailment.
There can be some hesitation to seek medical care in the Black community, which makes the risks that follow high blood pressure more dangerous. New York University's Joseph Ravenell told CNN that's why bringing healthcare to barbershops makes perfect sense.
"Since the barbershop is a place where men want to be, it's a place that's known for open collegial conversation, it really is a perfect place to relay health messages that are important for Black men," Ravenell said, adding barbers serve as "a trusted key opinion leader" for most Black men.
The study worked like this: 52 barbershops in L.A. County were assigned to either a pharmacist-led group or a PCP (primary care provider)-led control group, WTHR reports.
In the pharmacist-led group, barbers encouraged participants at their shops to connect with onsite pharmacists, who took their blood pressure and worked with the gentlemen's doctors to prescribe medication.
In the control group, barbers encouraged men with high blood pressure to seek help from their PCPs and suggested ways they could reduce their numbers by making lifestyle changes.
While the interventions in the second group helped, installing pharmacists made a huge difference. One of the researchers, Ciantel Blyler, said she was "surprised by the magnitude of the effect of the intervention.”
After a year of the program, 68 percent of the men in the pharmacist-led group had a systolic blood pressure of 130 or less. Those same numbers were achieved by 11 percent of those in the control group.
Researchers believe their success is easily repeatable in other communities and feel their program could become a model for future care.
Ronald G. Victor, who led the study, said as much in a blog post about the work, writing, "When we provide convenient and rigorous medical care to African American men by coming to them — in this case having pharmacists deliver that care in barbershops — blood pressure can be controlled and lives can be saved.”
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