Research out of California suggests doctors have stumbled on an effective new way to improve the heart health of African American men. About 43 percent of black men have high blood pressure, compared to 34 percent of white men and 28 percent of Mexican Americans, CDC data show.
Testing whether outreach would improve the situation, because black men generally have less physician interaction than black women, the researchers looked for a place in the community where they would be more apt to listen.
Dr. Ronald Victor, a cardiologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center who led the study, said barbershops are the ideal place to reach Black men for health screenings, according to the Associated Press.
Each of the 319 barbershop clients in the study had hypertension, defined as an average systolic blood pressure of 140 mm Hg or higher (that's the maximum pressure exerted on the arteries when the heart is pushing blood through the body). Another group met with pharmacists in the barbershops and could get treatment if their blood pressure was high.
In one group, barbers encouraged patrons to meet with specially trained pharmacists monthly in the barbershop. That pharmacist would measure the men's blood pressure, encourage lifestyle changes and prescribe blood pressure medication. The rest were given advice and encouragement on healthy lifestyle choices from their barber, who urged them to see a doctor for follow up. One group of the 303 men in the study received information and tips about managing hypertension, while the other group met pharmacists at the barbershop to receive treatment.
The researchers found almost 64% of the men who met with pharmacistsmonthly at their barbershop achieved a blood pressure level of less than 130/80 six months later, compared to the almost 12% of the men in the control group. "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". "High blood pressure disproportionately affects the African-American community, and we must find new ways to reach out so we can prevent strokes, heart attacks, heart failure and early deaths".
"A big takeaway from this study is to release the fears", said Muhammad, who is a co-author of the study. "With this program, we have been able to overcome that barrier".
The study had some limitations, including that it was not blind, because both participants and researchers knew who was assigned to the pharmacist-led program and who was in the control group.
Researchers are now studying whether the benefits can be sustained for an additional six months. "I feel great", he said, adding that "it's also fulfilling" to help his customers control their blood pressure as well.
In a studypublished in the American Journal of Public Health in August, Ravenell and his colleagues found that helping black men in barbershops through the process of registering for a colorectal cancer screening led to those men being significantly more likely to get screened over six months. I'd been on high blood pressure medicine for like two years then.
The researchers found that 17.5% of men who received help were screened, compared with 8.4% of those who didn't receive the screening help. They tended to be long-time regulars at their barbershops and went about twice a month for a haircut.
"We know that when it comes to people being receptive to health messages, the setting and the mood that people are in can have an impact on how open they are to receiving those messages", he said.
In the 19th century in the United States, barbers were among some of the first entrepreneurs and business owners in the black community. "I think that's why this intervention was ultimately so successful". "Barbershops are a social hub for black men".
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