Pharmacist-led programs in barbershops could help reduce high blood pressure (hypertension) in African American men in the United States, according to a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine. The potential impact is significant: According to the American Heart Association, hypertension affects more than 40 percent of non-Hispanic U.S. black men and women, and high blood pressure prevalence in this group is among the highest in the world.
For complex, reasons, many older African American adults – especially men – avoid seeing a health care provider unless they experience a serious health problem. Some mistrust doctors, and others face geographic, cultural, financial, or other barriers to health care. But for many in the black community, barbershops are safe havens of trust where conversations about personal topics – including health – are common.
The NEJM study involved 319 men between 35 and 79 with high blood pressure who were regular customers in 52 black-owned barbershops in Los Angeles County, California. Researchers randomly assigned the men to a pharmacist-led program or a control group, based on which barbershop they visited. Over the course of the study, guidance from a pharmacist, coupled with medication, reduced blood pressure to less than 130/80 in 63.6 percent of the men versus 11.7 percent of the men in the control group, according to the researchers.