Black men can access health care in a familiar setting: their favorite barbershop.
A new study by the Smidt Heart Institute (paid for by the National Institutes of Health) was released on Monday and suggests that providing health screenings at barbershops can help African-American men to significantly lower their blood pressure.
The study involved placing pharmacists in 52 barbershops in Los Angeles to test and treat customers who came in for a haircut. One group of the 303 men in the study received information and tips about managing hypertension, while the other group met pharmacists at the barbershop to receive treatment.
Black men tend to have elevated blood pressures, and if it goes untreated, hypertension can lead to heart attacks or stroke. Nearly 64 percent of the men who met with a pharmacist lowered their blood pressure to a healthy level below the mark where hypertension begins. Only 12 percent of men in the other group, which received just advice, lowered their blood pressure to the same level.
Dr. Ronald Victor, a cardiologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center who led the study, said barbershops are the perfect place to reach Black men for health screenings, according to the Associated Press. “It almost has a social club feel to it, a delightful, friendly environment,” he stated.
Eric Muhammad, who owns one of the barbershops used in the study, hit the nail on the head: “There’s open communication in a barbershop. There’s a relationship, a trust. We have a lot more influence than just the doctor walking in the door.”
The doctor wants to expand his reach by studying 3,000 men in several cities across the country, as well as adding cholesterol screenings into the mix.