As many of you probably already know, medicine and barbering have had a relationship since medieval times. After all, the barber’s pole references a time when, thanks to their expertise using razor-sharp instruments, barbers performed bloodletting, pulled teeth and treated wounds. So it makes perfect sense that a project paired pharmacists with more than 50 Los Angeles-area barbershops to test and treat clients for high blood pressure.
The project focused on non-Hispanic black men, who have traditionally been underrepresented in clinical trials yet experience the highest rate of hypertension-related deaths in the U.S. The results published recently in The New England Journal of Medicine reveal that pharmacist-led programs in barbershops can significantly lower high blood pressure in American black men. Hypertension—blood pressure of 140/90 or higher—is usually asymptomatic and can lead to heart attack or stroke.
So why go to the barbershop? “Medical mistrust has been an important barrier to African- Americans seeking health care, and so the barbershop—where men go on a monthly basis and have an opportunity to develop a rapport with a trusted key opinion leader in the community— that rapport is a perfect foundation for talking about health,” Dr. Joseph Ravenell, an internist at NYU Langone Health and associate professor of Population Health and Medicine at NYU School of Medicine in New York told CNN. “Since the barbershop is a place where men want to be...it really is a perfect place to relay health messages that are important for black men.”
The study separated 319 participants into two groups. In the control group, barbers encouraged their clients to make lifestyle changes and doctor appointments. In the program group, barbers encouraged their clients to meet with specially trained pharmacists at the shop to help monitor their blood pressure and receive drug therapy. The results were overwhelmingly positive: nearly two-thirds of the men in the program group saw their blood pressure drop below 130/80, and 11.7 percent of men in the control group saw the same decrease in blood pressure. Not only do these results have doctors planning to expand the project to more cities nationwide, they demonstrate that even just by talking to your clients, you can significantly impact their health for the better.
[Image: Getty Images]