Barbershops hold a unique place in the culture of African-American men. More than just a place to get a haircut, the barbershop is a combination of a town square and a social club, where the men laugh and sort out the news of the day.
Researchers recently tapped into this familiarity for a project targeting high blood pressure levels among black men. Other efforts have had success when barbers with a predominately black clientele set up blood pressure testing equipment in the shops and suggested the men see a doctor if their readings were high. This time, the team enlisted pharmacists who went to 52 Los Angeles barbershops not just to test the men, but also to treat them.
The 319 participating men were separated into two groups, some who saw a pharmacist and others who were given pamphlets and tips on how to lower their blood pressure. The results, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, revealed that the men who saw the pharmacists had, on average, a 27-point drop in their blood pressure in six months. Those who were only given advice saw their rates fall on average nine points.
Working with the participants’ doctors, the pharmacists prescribed drugs that the clients’ insurance plans would cover. They also used the customers’ loyalty to their barbers to continue the care, as the men typically visited the shops twice a month.
The results, the researchers said, could lead to fewer heart attacks, strokes and deaths as well as lower health care costs.
Churches, beauty salons and nail salons can also serve as venues for medical interventions and screenings. The key, the scientists said, is to have a trusted place where customers feel comfortable.