Vanderbilt University Looks to Battle Hypertension at Black-Owned Barbershops

Researchers at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center are launching a clinical trial for Black men, who are traditionally less likely than White men to have regular preventive checkups with their doctor.

In Nashville, patrons from eight local barbershops who have uncontrolled hypertension will be invited to enroll in the study, where they will meet with a study pharmacist in the barbershop on a regular basis for six months. A study physician will also be available for patrons who require additional support.

Because barbers are often seen as mentors and have longstanding relationships with their regular patrons, researchers hope their advocacy for the project will lead to earlier identification of hypertension.

“The relationship between the barber and client lends a level of credence to endeavors of health and wellness that cannot be found anywhere else,” said Jarod Parrish, the study’s pharmacist. “This model will help tear down barriers of entry for the African American community, such as the distrust in the health care system due to historical injustices, and will show that, when trusted, the health care system can deliver life-altering results.”

David Harrison, director of the division of clinical pharmacology at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center and principal investigator for the study, added that “one of the main challenges we face is that people have to take off work, come see a doctor, deal with traffic and try to find parking — all of which are disruptive to their life — so they stop taking their medicine and coming for appointments. Meeting people where they are makes it easier for them to get their blood pressure checked and discuss their medications.”

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