In an effort to reduce the high hypertension rates that plague black men in the U.S., many interesting approaches have been applied. Blood pressure screenings at Barber Shops and churches, for example, have become a popular way to reach individuals who do not regularly visit a doctor, but many have questioned just how effective these types of public health interventions actually are.
A recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine concluded that barbershop interventions for increasing hypertension control among black men are, in fact, effective. More specifically, the study found that allowing barbers to act as health educators, monitor blood pressure and encourage patrons with high blood pressure to make follow-up appointments with a doctor works to lower blood pressure rates among this high-risk group.
In addition to encouragement, incentives were involved in the study as well. If a patron with hypertension hadn’t scheduled an appointment with his doctor by his next visit, the barber would schedule an appointment for him. But if the patron proceeded to see the doctor, he would receive a free haircut, according to an article on Time.com.
The rather small study was limited to 17 barber shops in and around Dallas, Texas, so further research is suggested, but the results hold promise for a future of reduced blood pressure rates among black men, who have the highest incidence of hypertension related death among any group in the U.S.
“If the intervention could be implemented in the approximately 18,000 black-owned barbershops in the United States to reduce systolic BP…in the approximately 50% of hypertensive U.S. black men who patronize these barbershops [an estimated 2.2 million people], we project that about 800 fewer myocardial infarctions, 550 fewer strokes and 900 fewer deaths would occur in the first year alone, saving about $98 million in [coronary heart disease] care and $13 million in stroke care,” the authors of the study were quoted as saying, in the Time.com article.
Additionally, the study serves as a reminder that fairly straight forward community-based public health interventions can be an integral method for reducing the incidence of specific health issues within high-risk populations.
posted by: Beth Krietsch