Think You Have High Blood Pressure? Go to the Barber

Barbershop-based health initiatives can help control hypertension and diabetes in Black men.

Posted: 04/02/2012 11:19 AM EDT

Since their inception, barbershops and beauty shops in the African-American community have been places for us to congregate, talk about current events, bond and get our hair laid or fades lined up.

It's because of the relationships we’ve all had historically and continue to have with these shops that public health advocates began to look at these businesses as a point of entry to educate the Black community about pressing health issues.

So whether it's HIV/AIDS, safer sex, breast cancer and colon cancer, studies have found these initiatives have had a positive influence in our community. A recent study adds to that growing body of literature.

An article published in the Journal of the National Medical Association found that using local barbershops to control high blood pressure and diabetes in African-American men was very successful. The study, which was conducted by the Black Barbershop Health Outreach Program, screened over 7,000 men in 30 barbershops in 20 cities across six states. And what they found was that by screening, educating and referring men to the doctor, Black men have a better chance of controlling their high blood pressure and diabetes.

It's important to note that one of the main reasons why programs like the Black Barbershop Health Outreach Program are so successful is because they are trusted voices reaching populations that typically fall through the health care cracks. Health experts state that racial health disparities exist because of disproportionate poverty, lack of access to quality health care and low health literacy. And not having access means being completely unaware that they are diabetic or are suffering from high blood pressure. These health initiatives come in and bridge the gap.

That gap is a pretty large one.

According to the American Diabetes Association, approximately 2.7 million or 11.4 percent of all African-Americans aged 20 years or older have diabetes — but at least one-third of them don't know it. And Black men are more likely to suffer from complications due to diabetes; they are also more likely to develop one or more of the serious complications associated with the disease, including amputation, kidney failure, blindness and cardiovascular disease.

In terms of hypertension, also called the "silent killer," African-American men have the highest rate of hypertension-related deaths (three times the rate of white men), partially due to undiagnosed and untreated high blood pressure. Also, current research has found that hypertension is developing in Black men at younger ages.

One can only hope barbershop programs such as the Black Barbershop Health Outreach Program can empower Black men to make their health a priority.



BET Health News - We go beyond the music and entertainment world to bring you important medical information and health-related tips of special relevance to Blacks in the U.S. and around the world.

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