JAMA Logo Who could believe that checking blood pressure at a barbershop improves control of hypertension? A latest study claims that black men examining blood pressure at the barbershop are more likely to enhance hypertension regulation. With uncontrolled hypertension being one of the most important causes of premature disability and death among non-Hispanic black men, the findings seem to be extremely beneficial.

Authors initiated a randomized trial on 17 black-owned barbershops in Dallas County, Texas between March 2006 and December 2008. At the start itself nine barbershops were randomized into the comparison group. These shops encompassed 695 patrons with hypertension by an average of 77 per shop. These patrons were on standard hypertension education pamphlets written for a broad audience. The other eight barbershops were randomly selected to the intervention group. In this group 602 hypertension patients with an average of 75 per shop were included. These patrons were provided with personalized, sex-specific health messaging, and posters of other male hypertensive patrons of the same shop modeling treatment-seeking behavior.

Also, barbers in the intervention group gave patrons blood pressure checks during haircuts. Ronald G. Victor, M.D., then of University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas and now of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, and colleagues gathered follow-up data after 10 months from both groups. As a result, improvement in barber-based intervention was registered in hypertension control. Investigators noted that in the intervention group control rate for patrons with hypertension rose increased from 33.8 percent at baseline to 53.7 percent at follow-up, an increase of 19.9 percent.

Investigators added, “Uncontrolled hypertension is one of the most important causes of premature disability and death among non-Hispanic black men. Compared with black women, men have less frequent physician contact for preventive care and thus substantially lower rates of hypertension detection, medical treatment and control. Additionally, black-owned barbershops hold special appeal for community-based intervention trials because they are a cultural institution that draws a large and loyal male clientele and provides an open forum for discussion of numerous topics, including health, with influential peers.”

On the other hand the control rate for patrons in the comparison group elevated from 40 at baseline to 51 at follow-up for an increase of 11.1 percent. So an absolute between-group difference of 8.8 percent with significant benefits in the barbershop group appeared. The rate of hypertension treatment apparently increased by 11.2 percent in the intervention group and 6.2 percent among those belonging to the comparison group.

The study is online and will be published in the February 28 print issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.