Freakonomics, M.D.: Are Barbershops the Cutting Edge of Healthcare Delivery?
Freakonomics M.D. host Bapu Jena recently spoke with Cedars-Sinai Clinical Pharmacist C. Adair Blyler, PharmD, discussing how Black barbershops can help improve the health of their customers by screening them for high blood pressure and other chronic conditions.
Uncontrolled high blood pressure, also called hypertension, is considered a silent killer because it doesn't show many obvious symptoms. Getting your blood pressure measured by a physician is the best way to know you have it. Taking action—eating healthfully, exercising and taking blood pressure medication—is important, Blyler said, because hypertension is one of the leading risk factors for heart attacks and strokes.
Hypertension occurs more frequently among Black men than white men. Black men are also less likely to seek preventive care from medical providers.
Blyler was part of the team led by the late Cedars-Sinai cardiologist Ronald G. Victor, MD, that launched a groundbreaking study examining whether stationing pharmacists at Black barbershops could help control high blood pressure among patrons.
Barbershops proved to be a safe space where trusted barbers could convince their Black customers to get a screening with pharmacists like Blyler who were embedded in the shops.
“I think my being in the shop day in and day out really allowed me to establish a rapport with folks, and with that came trust," Blyler told Jena.
Blyler and her fellow pharmacists screened and treated customers for hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes, counseled them on lifestyle changes, and prescribed medication when needed. These efforts made a real difference, Blyler said.
She recounted a situation with a barber, whom she diagnosed with hypertension and persuaded to accept treatment. "I went from putting him on three medications to down to just one medication because he had lost 30, 40 pounds, and he had stopped smoking," Blyler told Jena.
Click here to listen to the complete interview from Freakonomics, M.D.