A new study looked at 319 black male patrons of 52 black-owned barbershops with uncontrolled hypertension (systolic BP 140 mm Hg or higher).
Dr. Ronald Victor, a cardiologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center who led the study, said barbershops are the flawless place to reach Black men for health screenings, according to the Associated Press.
Black men have the highest rate of death related to hypertension in the US-coupled with a lower rate of physician interaction and control of hypertension compared to their female counterparts.
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. The first would encourage their customers to meet with a pharmacist and their doctor about medication that could help lower their blood pressure. The rest were given advice and encouragement on healthy lifestyle choices from their barber, who urged them to see a doctor for follow up. Diastolic blood pressured dropped by 4 mm Hg in this group. "It's a no-brainer that black men are at the highest risk of high blood pressure". The primary outcome was the change in systolic blood pressure at 6 months. At the start of the study, about half of the participants were taking at least one blood pressure medication, with an overall average of one medication in both groups.
Presented at the 67 American College of Cardiology Scientific Sessions in Orlando, Florida, the study sought to develop an effective intervention to link health promotion by barbers to drug intervention by pharmacists.
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. "Since I could see his heart in this, it was easy for me to offer assistance".
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.
"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", pharmacist C. Adair Blyler said in the news release.
That pharmacist would measure the men's blood pressure, encourage lifestyle changes and prescribe blood pressure medication. "With this program, we have been able to overcome that barrier".
Researchers have started a second phase of the study to determine if the benefits can be sustained for an additional six months.
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.
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