POWER OF COMMUNITY

To solve the high blood pressure epidemic among black men, put pharmacists in barbershops

A sense of community is crucial to thriving as a human, so much so that it could be the most important component in an emerging concept for saving lives.

Research out of California suggests doctors have stumbled on an effective new way to improve the heart health of African American men. By pairing pharmacists with barbershops, doctors found they could make a dent in a public health problem that often leads to heart attacks and strokes. By going into spaces where people felt at ease, doctors found patients were more receptive to testing and treatment for high blood pressure.

“Barbershops are a uniquely popular meeting place for African-American men,” Cedars-Sinai Medical Center cardiologist Ronald Victor told the Associated Press. “It almost has a social club feel to it, a delightful, friendly environment.”

The study included 303 men with an average blood pressure of 154 (anything over 130 is considered high), and 52 barbershops across Los Angeles. The individuals were split into two groups—one group got pamphlets and blood pressure tips during their haircuts. The other got facetime with pharmacists and access to treatment. The results were stark.

Among the men who only had access to information, blood pressure dropped by an average of nine points, compared to a 27-point drop for those who had face-to-face time with pharmacists. The results were announced March 12 at the American College of Cardiology conference in Orlando, Florida. The success rates were high enough that doctors around the country are investigating how to expand the program in their cities.

That’s good news for a country where high blood pressure, a condition that develops, at least in part, due to higher rates of obesity and diabetes, is a serious health condition. About 75 million American adults suffer from high blood pressure—nearly one in every three people living in the US, according the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Only 54% of those people have their condition under control, and many don’t even know they’re living with it. High blood pressure was linked to 410,000 American deaths in 2014 alone. The illness has an outsized impact on African American communities: the American Heart Association estimates nearly 40% of African American adults suffer from high blood pressure.


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