A new study has found that 40% of African American men with high blood pressure might be rescued from the epidemic if they visit a barber or a beauty salon.
The study found that when a group of African American men with untreated high blood pressure got a screening and a friendly nudge from their barber, as well as a visit to the shop from a pharmacist, close to two-thirds of the men brought their blood pressure into a healthy range.
Those who visit such stores have their systolic blood pressure fell by an average of 27 points. Also, their diastolic blood pressure decreased by an average of nearly 15 points.
According to the study, 132 men who got a barbershop visit from a pharmacist were almost six times more likely to bring their blood pressure under control than were those who just got a barber’s advice to eat better, exercise more, and see a doctor.
The research was conducted from February 2015 to July 2017 in 52 black-owned barber shops across Los Angeles County. The study was led by Dr. Ronald G. Victor who found that “bringing rigorous medicine directly to men in a barbershop, and making it convenient for them made a significant difference.”
Victor said that “the inclusion of two pharmacists — a white woman and a woman of color, each of whom turned in similar results,” was the best test that appeared to bring participants’ blood pressure in check.
The African American shop owners who participated in the study had been in business an average of 17 to 18 years, and the men they enrolled had been coming to their shops for more than a decade, typically once every two weeks.
African American men have a higher rate of blood pressure than any other ethnic group, 40% to be precise. And about one-third of those men compared with 43% of white men and almost 50% of black women have brought their hypertension under control with medication, as the study suggests.
Victor is optimistic that barbershops could help close that gap. “These magical places are a window into some of the most positive aspects of black men’s social lives: loyalty, friendship, inclusiveness,” he said.
In African American communities, “we can map the places of black barbers right there alongside black ministers” as agents of trust and authority, said Vassar College history professor Quincy T. Mills.
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