Published: Wed, March 14, 2018
Medicine | By Douglas Stevenson

A cluster-randomized trial of blood-pressure reduction in barbershops

A cluster-randomized trial of blood-pressure reduction in barbershops

Specifically, men who received frequent monitoring and medication management from a specially-trained pharmacist who met them monthly in their barbershop lowered their systolic blood pressure by 21 mm Hg more, on average, compared with men who were encouraged by their barber to follow up with a doctor and to make healthy lifestyle choices.

"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", Victor said. Lowering blood pressure through lifestyle modification and medications substantially reduces this risk. In all, 63.6% of the intervention group achieved a blood-pressure level of less than 130/80 mm Hg, compared with 11.7% of the control group.

"When we provide convenient and rigorous medical care to African-American men by coming to them - in this case having pharmacists deliver that care in barbershops - blood pressure can be controlled and lives can be saved", Ronald G. Victor, the study's lead author, told ScienceDaily.com.

Research out of California suggests doctors have stumbled on an effective new way to improve the heart health of African American men. The new study is unique because it combined barbershop-based health outreach with the delivery of care by medical professionals at the barbershop and evaluated subsequent efficacy with a randomized trial.

Study participants were divided into two focus groups of men aged 35 to 79. A normal blood pressure reading is less than 120 systolic and 80 diastolic or 120/80 mm Hg, the CDC website states.

The authors also reported a cohort retention rate of 95% in the intervention group with 309 men completing the study.

Historically, barbershops are a space where black men have found a community to be seen, felt and empowered. Almost 64 percent of the men who met with a pharmacist lowered their blood pressure to a healthy level below the mark where hypertension begins. The pharmacists worked directly with the men under a collaborative care agreement with their primary care doctors.

Over the course of six months, both control groups experienced a drop in blood pressure, although the first group - with a medication intervention - had a decline three times more than the group that only promoted lifestyle changes and doctor visits. The corresponding drops in the control group were 9.3 and 4 mm Hg, respectively.

One pharmacist who took part in the study explained the advantages of offering blood pressure treatment at a barbershop.

Left untreated, high blood pressure can damage blood vessels throughout the body, according to the American Heart Association. "We are very excited about the results". But high blood pressure continues to be more prevalent among black men than it is among white men, Mexican-American men and black women. The individuals were split into two groups-one group got pamphlets and blood pressure tips during their haircuts.

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