Amid the buzz of hair clippers and the beat of hip-hop, barber Corey Thomas squeezes in a little advice to the clients who come into his Inglewood, Calif., shop for shaves and fade cuts. Watch what you eat, he tells them. Check your blood pressure. Don’t take life so hard.
“We’re a high statistic for … hypertension and everything, and it’s something we let go by,” Thomas said as he worked at the shop, A New You. “Our customers, they’ll talk to us before they talk to anybody else.”
And that can be good for their health. Thomas, who himself has high blood pressure, helped lead a group of customers as part of a study published Monday in the New England Journal of Medicine showing that providing information and inviting a pharmacist onsite can go a long way toward helping black men reduce their blood pressure.
The group, which met for about a year in 2016, included a once-a-week visit from the pharmacist, who prescribed blood pressure medicine and followed up with the customers to make sure they were taking it. A blood pressure machine installed in the barbershop sent patients’ readings directly to their doctors and to the pharmacist.
A New You barbershop in Inglewood was part of a Cedars-Sinai Medical Center medical study to reduce blood pressure in black barbershops. (Heidi de Marco/California Healthline)
A blood pressure monitor sits in the corner of A New You. Thomas says clients use it regularly to check their blood pressure. (Heidi de Marco/California Healthline)
Researchers found that after six months, the men who received both the education from their barbers and the drug therapy from the pharmacists were more likely to see their blood pressure drop to a healthier level and remain under control than the comparison group that received only information and encouragement to see their doctors.
Nearly two-thirds of the men who got the drug therapy achieved a healthy blood pressure of less than 130/80 mm Hg, while only about 12 percent of the second group did.
“We all expected the intervention to be effective, but I don’t think any of us could have predicted the magnitude of the effect we ultimately saw,” said pharmacist Ciantel Adair Blyler, one of the co-authors of the study, who visited 10 different barbershops in Inglewood, Compton, Bellflower and Long Beach. She went to each shop once a week for a year to see patients, she said.
A team of pharmacists, along with physicians from several medical centers in Southern California, conducted the study at 52 Los Angeles-area barbershops with an $8.5 million federal grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
Each of the 319 barbershop clients in the study had hypertension, defined as an average systolic blood pressure of 140 mm Hg or higher .