It may sound odd, but a study published online in the Archives of Internal Medicine earlier today has found that if neighborhood barbers can take customer blood pressures, hypertension care is improved in African-American men.
African-American men are one of the groups that are at increased risk of developing hypertension. The problem is that hypertension, or increased blood pressure, is a silent disease until after it has already done damage to the body. The only way to detect hypertension is through blood pressure screening. However, to do that, the patients have to willingly go to a clinic or doctor's office to have their blood pressure checked.
In this particular study, which took place over 10 months, barbers offered to take their customers' blood pressure when they came in for a hair cut. The barbers also promoted physician-follow up and provided patient education material about hypertension and its long-term effects. Seventeen barber shops participated in the study and reached 1,300 men. All 17 shops offered the screenings and then were divided into the intervention and comparison groups.
Both groups of shops took initial blood pressure readings of the men. In the eight comparison shops, the men were then offered standard educational material about hypertension. In the nine intervention shops, after the initial blood pressure reading, the men were offered free checks with every hair cut. If the BP reading was high, the barber encouraged the patron to see a doctor and the man was given a free haircut if he returned with a doctor-signed referral card. If the man did not go to the doctor, the barber called the study's staff to arrange a visit and would then give the customer the information.
Results of the study showed marked improvements in blood pressure levels among the barbershop patron who went to the shops in the intervention program.
This isn't the first time that the neighborhood barber shop has been the center of medical and screening programs. According to a press release issued by Cedars-Sinai Medical Center,
Since the 1980s, African-American-owned barbershops and hair salons have hosted screening programs for medical conditions that disproportionately affect African-Americans. Victor's study concludes that if hypertension intervention programs were put in place in the estimated 18,000 African-American barbershops in the U.S., it would result in the first year in about 800 fewer heart attacks, 550 fewer strokes and 900 fewer deaths.
Interesting and effective way to reach people, isn't it?