This unique healthcare initiative is improving men’s health simply by utilizing their regular trips to a barbershop.

Based on previous research suggesting that people are more likely to accept medical advice if they’re in familiar environments, pharmacists have spent the last 12 months working in barbershops so they can prescribe, monitor, and adjust blood pressure medication for African-American men, one of the most at-risk demographics for high blood pressure and hypertension.

The novel study, which was published in the journal Circulation earlier this week, involved 52 Los Angeles County barbershops. The new set of of data backs up previous research which proves that a pharmacist-led, barbershop-based medical intervention can successfully lower blood pressure in high-risk African-American men.

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“Our initial six-month data showed a marked reduction of blood pressure in the intervention group,” said Adair Blyler, an author on the study and one of two clinical pharmacists from the Smidt Heart Institute Cedars-Sinai who traveled to the black-owned barbershops to treat patients.

“Now, our 12-month data shows that this significant reduction in blood pressure can be sustained, and in some cases, even improved, despite fewer in-person visits with a pharmacist,” added Blyler.

The study was led by the late Ronald G. Victor, one of the world’s foremost experts on hypertension and community-based healthcare interventions. Victor was the first to study, and prove, that high-risk populations are more likely to be receptive to medical care in an environment where they’re most comfortable.

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“This study will have a lasting impact on one of our nation’s most at-risk populations when it comes to high blood pressure,” said Eduardo Marbán, director of the Smidt Heart Institute. “As an institution, we are proud of these results and know Ron Victor would have been proud to see his vision produce such successful results that will have a positive effect on thousands of lives.”

Patients with hypertension have a blood pressure score above 130 over 80, although those with the first number above 120 are now considered to have elevated blood pressure. If left untreated, hypertension can lead to heart failure, stroke and kidney disease. It’s often considered a silent killer because patients typically don’t feel symptoms.

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According to the research, at 12 months, the average systolic blood pressure – the top number in a blood pressure reading – fell by nearly 29 mmHg in the intervention group and by 7.2 mmHg in the control group – a difference of just over 21 mmHg.

With these positive results, Smidt Heart Institute researchers will now shift their focus to identifying cost-effective ways to broaden barbershop-based care and implement this novel model to other high-risk communities outside of Los Angeles County.

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