As men stopped by barbershops in Los Angeles between 2015-2017, they likely weren’t expecting to leave with tools to manage high blood pressure, a risk factor for heart disease – and a leading cause of death worldwide. The Los Angeles Barbershop Blood Pressure Study, which took place at 52 Black-owned barbershops, has been widely referenced for its ability to help men control hypertension, or high blood pressure. Now, a study in Circulation found the barbershop interventions are also cost effective, especially when pharmacists use generic medications.
As background, healthy blood pressure levels for adults fall below 120/80 mm Hg. If a patient’s systolic blood pressure, the top number that measures the force of blood against artery walls, reaches 130 mm Hg or higher, a physician may prescribe a heart-healthy lifestyle and medication to control hypertension. Men in the barbershop study had average systolic blood pressure levels of 150 mm Hg. With the help of pharmacists at barbershops, men received health information and prescriptions to lower their systolic blood pressure. Their systolic blood pressure dropped by about 22 mm Hg more than men in a control group who received health information from their barber.
The authors note that these types of community partnerships may improve access to care, screenings, and education, while helping adults control chronic conditions – which can help build resilience in communities. A recent study in Health Affairs found disparities among pharmacies located in 30 U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, and the authors made similar recommendations to improve access to medications and other health care services.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute supported both studies.