Compared to other racial and ethnic groups, black men have a higher rate of hypertension and are less likely to use medication to bring their blood pressure under control. So Dr. Ronald Victor of Cedars-Sinai and colleagues developed and tested an intervention that brought blood-pressure treatment to 52 black-owned, Los Angeles barbershops. Barbers encouraged their customers to get their blood pressure checked; 320 customers were found to have uncontrolled hypertension and were enrolled in the study.

At half the barbershops in the cluster-randomized trial, customers were encouraged to meet with pharmacists who could prescribe blood-pressure medication; at the remaining barbershops, customers were encouraged to make lifestyle changes and see their doctors. The findings, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that more than 63% of men who received prescriptions from pharmacists lowered their blood pressure to healthy levels within six months, compared to less than 12% of men who received only advice.

Writing about the study on his blog, NIH Director Francis Collins said, "The findings serve as a reminder that helping people get healthier doesn't always require technological advances. Sometimes it may involve developing more effective ways of getting proven therapy to at-risk communities."

CTSI supported the research by providing pilot funds and a community-engagement consultation to help identify barbershops, and by facilitating a collaboration between Dr. Victor and UCLA biostatistician Dr. Robert Elashoff. The UCLA CTSI is funded by a grant from the NIH's National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.

Further Reading:

NEJM. "A Cluster Randomized Trial of Blood-Pressure Reduction in Black Barbershops."
NIH Director's Blog. "Can Barbers Help Black Men Lower Their Blood Pressure?"
LA Times.  "How Visits to the Barbershop Helped Reduce Blood Pressure in African American Men"
CNN. "How Barbershops Could Help Lower Blood Pressure"
Press release. "Barbershop-based Health Care Study Lowers High Blood Pressure in African American Men"

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