African-American men continue to report a significant reduction in systolic blood pressure a year after signing up to interventions held in barbershops.
A Barbershop Intervention
In a study led by the late Ronald Victor, a professor of medicine at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, a total of 319 African-American men with an average systolic blood pressure of 152.4 mm Hg experienced an intervention in 52 participating barbershops in Los Angeles. During the experiment, trained pharmacists assisted with testing and treating men who had high blood pressure.
After six months, those who were involved saw a significant drop in their blood pressure.
On Monday, Dec. 17, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center published a follow-up study to see if the changes observed in the first six months of the experiment have been sustained after 12 months. They found that the men who were involved in the experiment continued to improve their health.
For the next phase of the experiment, the researchers decreased the number of pharmacists available in barbershops. Despite the absence of in-person pharmacists, however, the participants' average systolic blood pressure dropped to 123.8 mm Hg.
Why Barbershop Intervention Works
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, less than 120 mm Hg of systolic blood pressure is considered normal. Meanwhile, those who have 120-139 mm Hg systolic blood pressure are considered to be at risk.
African-American men are also at a higher risk of developing high blood pressure compared to people from other ethnicities. Part of the problem stems from the fact that they are less likely to see their doctors for diagnosis and treatment.
Bringing the intervention in barbershops considered to be social hubs within the African-American men proved to be an effective way to get them to care for their health. The researchers report that, even when they were not scheduled to get a haircut, participants ended up coming to the barbershops anyway to see a pharmacist.
"A lot of times you walk in and people are hanging out, not getting their hair cut but watching TV, or watching a game or playing cards," explained Ciantel Blyler, lead author of the study and one of the pharmacists who assisted the participants. "It was easy to convince them to come see me for 30 minutes."
The study was published in the journal Circulation.