Barbershop Pharmacists: A Good Rx for High Blood Pressure

Tuesday, 13 Mar, 2018

For African-American men with uncontrolled hypertension, health promotion by barbers led to greater blood-pressure reduction when combined with medication management in barbershops by specialty-trained pharmacists, according to new research.

The study was published March 12 in the New England Journal of Medicine and presented at an American College of Cardiology meeting in Orlando, Fla.

Black men can access health care in a familiar setting: their favorite barbershop.

The researchers enrolled 319 black men from 52 different barbershops in Los Angeles County. Of the 309 men who completed the six-month study, 132 were randomly assigned to receive monitoring and medication from a pharmacist who visited the barbershop, while the other 171 were encouraged by barbers to engage in lifestyle modifications and schedule doctor appointments. 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 mean reduction was 21.6 mm Hg greater with the intervention. Sixty-four percent of the men in the intervention group improved their blood pressure to levels in the normal range, compared to 12 percent of the control group. The rate of cohort retention in the intervention group was high (95%), and there were few adverse events.

But a study yesterday said they can also help encourage men to get their high blood pressure under control.

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.

At baseline, about one-half of participants in both groups were taking blood pressure medication.

Black men tend to have elevated blood pressures, and if it goes untreated, hypertension can lead to heart attacks or stroke. Their systolic blood pressure dropped from 155 mmHg at the start of the study to 145 mmHg after six months. These differential targets and measurement locations may have factored into the results, and "normotensive office readings that mask high out-of-office blood pressure are common in black patients", they wrote.

Victor said trust and rapport is essential because high blood pressure a chronic condition that requires ongoing care and lifestyle changes. "What's different about this study is it looks at ways to effectively bring it down with the help of your friends, family and support group".

"A big takeaway from this study is to release the fears", said Muhammad, who is a co-author of the study. "We have a lot more influence than just the doctor walking in the door". Dr. Victor has a very honest desire to bring down blood pressure in people in general, and in black men in particular. "With this program, we have been able to overcome that barrier". "Since I could see his heart in this, it was easy for me to offer assistance". That study was of 17 Dallas barbershops. Victor also hopes to expand the program to other parts of the country and to reach a larger population, including African-American men with more moderate blood pressure levels.