The researchers also pointed out an additional 3.5 million black men in the US are considered to have hypertension now that the ACC and American Heart Association have dropped the lower threshold to 130/80 mm Hg.
The researchers enrolled 319 black men from 52 different barbershops in Los Angeles County.
The study was published March 12 in the New England Journal of Medicine and presented at an American College of Cardiology meeting in Orlando, Fla.
"In conclusion, medication management that was delivered in barbershops by specialty-trained pharmacists, as compared with standard management afforded by primary care practices, resulted in much larger blood-pressure reductions in black male patrons of those shops who had hypertension", said lead author Ronald G. Victor, MD, associate director of the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai. "Black men have less physician interaction than black women and lower rates of hypertension treatment and control, necessitating community outreach".
Muhammad was so committed to the cause of reducing hypertension in his community that he not only recruited his own patrons for the study, but also helped recruit 50 other barbershops to participate. "Several aspects of our intervention (blood-pressure measurement and medication protocols) could be adopted by other health care professionals and organizations", they write. After six months, 11.7% of men in this group saw their blood pressure decrease to a healthy point. By pairing pharmacists with barbershops, doctors found they could make a dent in a public health problem that often leads to heart attacks and strokes.
Each man was assigned either to a control group or to a program, where his barber would recommend that he meet with a trained pharmacist at the barbershop.
One specific program successfully aided black men in controlling their blood pressure, an issue that disproportionately affects the demographic.
Their blood pressure dropped from 153 mmHg at the start of the study to 126 mmHg after six months.
Historically, barbershops are a space where black men have found a community to be seen, felt and empowered. After six months, nearly two-thirds of participants in the group working with pharmacists brought their blood pressure into the healthy range.
Mean systolic BP at baseline was 152.8mmHg and 154.6mmHg in the intervention and control groups, respectively.
Victor said trust and rapport is essential because high blood pressure a chronic condition that requires ongoing care and lifestyle changes. "What's different about this study is it looks at ways to effectively bring it down with the help of your friends, family and support group". "Once you have hypertension, it requires a lifetime commitment to taking medications and making lifestyle changes".
"A big takeaway from this study is to release the fears", said Muhammad, who is a co-author of the study.
The researchers write in the study that they believe the intervention succeeded because the pharmacists made getting blood pressure treatment very convenient. "We can not fear what the doctor will tell us".