Supporting previous research, a new study published March 12, 2018, in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) finds that specially trained pharmacists can work with barber shops to tackle high blood pressure rates among African-American men. The trust the men have in their barbers and the comfort they feel in the barbershop make them receptive to a discussion about the danger of high hypertension rates.
Sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the study included more than 50 barbershops and followed more than 300 men in the 35-79 age range. Two groups of men were identified as having high blood pressure. One group of men received only advice and pamphlets about blood pressure as they were getting their hair cut, while a second group of men met with pharmacists and were able to receive medication on the spot.
After six months, average blood pressure levels fell by 9 points for the men who were given only advice and by 27 points for those who saw pharmacists. Nearly two-thirds of the men who saw pharmacists reached a blood pressure reading of 130 over 80 or lower, giving them a normal blood pressure level according to the latest guidelines. Only 12 percent of the men who received advice but did not meet with the pharmacists dropped their readings to that level.
The researchers as well as other observers conclude that a key component to the success of this program is the partnership of the trained pharmacists with a community resource like barbershops. While some of these men were skeptical about doctors and prescribed medication, the barbershop atmosphere helped them to focus on their wellbeing and trust the information they were receiving.
According to NIH, non-Hispanic black men have the highest rate of hypertension-related death of any racial, ethnic, or sex group in the United States. High blood pressure raises the risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke.