Barbershop-Based Study Lowers Blood Pressure in Black Men

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Cedars-Sinai Barbershop Hypertension Study

Black men successfully lowered their high blood pressure to healthy levels when aided by a pharmacist and their local barber, according to a new study from the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai.

Uncontrolled high blood pressure is a leading cause of premature disability and death among black men—necessitating community outreach.

“It’s a no-brainer that black men are at the highest risk of high blood pressure. What’s different about this study is it looks at ways to effectively bring it down with the help of your friends, family, and support group.”

“When we provide convenient and rigorous medical care to African-American men by coming to them—in this case having pharmacists deliver that care in barbershops—blood pressure can be controlled and lives can be saved,” says Dr. Ronald G. Victor, associate director of the Smidt Heart Institute and the study’s lead author.

“High blood pressure disproportionately affects the African-American community and we must find new ways to reach out so we can prevent strokes, heart attacks, heart failure, and early deaths.”

The study

319 black men with high blood pressure participated in the study through 52 LA-area barbershops.

Of the men who regularly met with pharmacists at their barbershops, 63.6% brought their blood pressure into the healthy range in 6 months.

Barbers at some of the shops encouraged their patrons to meet with pharmacists on-site at the barbershop when they came in for their regular appointments; the pharmacists prescribed blood pressure medication and communicated with the men’s primary care physicians about treatment.

Barbers at the remaining shops encouraged the men to follow up with their doctors and suggested lifestyle changes to help lower blood pressure.

Of the men in the first group who regularly met with pharmacists, 63.6% brought their blood pressure into the healthy range in 6 months.

Of the men in the second group who did not have regular check-ins with a pharmacist, 11.7% brought their blood pressure into the healthy range during the same time period.

Impact on community

“It’s the silent killer, and it’s cost the lives and health of a lot of good men,” says Eric Muhammad, one of the barbers and a co-author of the study. “It’s a no-brainer that black men are at the highest risk of high blood pressure. What’s different about this study is it looks at ways to effectively bring it down with the help of your friends, family, and support group.”


Read: Saving Lives at the Barbershop


“There is a different level of trust and respect that’s earned when you meet people where they are instead of in a hospital or clinic,” says pharmacist Adair Blyler, who treated patrons in the barbershops. “The rapport I’ve been able to establish with this group of patients has been unlike any other I’ve had in my professional career.”

That level of trust and rapport is essential in treating hypertension, because it’s a chronic condition that requires ongoing care and lifestyle changes, according to Dr. Victor.

“When we provide convenient and rigorous medical care to African-American men by coming to them—in this case having pharmacists deliver that care in barbershops—blood pressure can be controlled and lives can be saved.”

“Once you have hypertension, it requires a lifetime commitment to taking medications and making lifestyle changes,” says Dr. Victor. “It is often challenging to get people who need blood pressure medication to take it, even as costs and side effects have gone down over the years. With this program, we have been able to overcome that barrier.”

The findings were published today in The New England Journal of Medicine.


This study was funded in part by a grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health.

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