Managing blood pressure in barbershops yields substantial improvements

Managing blood pressure in barbershops yields substantial improvements

By going into spaces where people felt at ease, doctors found patients were more receptive to testing and treatment for high blood pressure.

But a study yesterday said they can also help encourage men to get their high blood pressure under control. Of the 309 men who completed the six-month study, 132 were randomly assigned to receive monitoring and medication from a pharmacist who visited the barbershop, while the other 171 were encouraged by barbers to engage in lifestyle modifications and schedule doctor appointments. By pairing pharmacists with barbershops, doctors found they could make a dent in a public health problem that often leads to heart attacks and strokes.

"In conclusion, medication management that was delivered in barbershops by specialty-trained pharmacists, as compared with standard management afforded by primary care practices, resulted in much larger blood-pressure reductions in black male patrons of those shops who had hypertension", said lead author Ronald G. Victor, MD, associate director of the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai. Black men reduced one of their biggest medical risks through a novel project that shows the power of familiar faces and trusted places to improve 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", said C. Adair Blyler, a pharmacist who treated patrons while they were in the barbershops.

Victor et al. noted one of the limitations of their study is pharmacists targeted blood pressure below 130/80 mm Hg, while primary care providers for control-group participants may have used an in-office goal of 140/90. Their systolic blood pressure dropped from 155 mmHg at the start of the study to 145 mmHg after six months.

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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. Diastolic blood pressured dropped by 4 mm Hg in this group. And after six months, 11.7 percent's blood pressure was in the healthy range. "For a lot of the men it would be impractical to say "well I'll come see the doctor three weeks from Wednesday at 3 o" clock in the afternoon.'" Eric Muhammad owns A New You Barber and Beauty Salon and said participating in the program is easy. "Sometimes it takes that extra kick in the butt", Muhammad said. Dr. Victor has a very honest desire to bring down blood pressure in people in general, and in black men in particular.

"This is a very significant effect for a hypertension trial of any kind", said Victor, whose hypertension was diagnosed by a barber in Dallas during his first barbershop-based study in the 1990s.

Researchers have started a second phase of the study to determine if the benefits can be sustained for another six months.

Victor also hopes to expand the program to other parts of the country, including African-American men with more moderate blood pressure levels.

The findings were presented March 12 at the American College of Cardiology's annual scientific session and published simultaneously in The New England Journal of Medicine.

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