Los Angeles,
05:00 AM

Landmark Smidt Heart Institute Study Is Replicated in the South

New Barbershop-Based Clinical Trial in Nashville Is Groomed After Pioneering Studies by the Late Hypertension Specialist Ronald G. Victor, MD

A groundbreaking Smidt Heart Institute hypertension study based in African American barbershops is being replicated in the South at Vanderbilt University Medical Center In Nashville, Tennessee. The new study is modeled after several pioneering studies led by the late hypertension specialist Ronald G. Victor, MD.

Victor was the first to scientifically prove that hypertension healthcare provided in convenient neighborhood settings could have a positive impact on the African American community, which has higher rates of hypertension, hypertension complications and death.

Victor led several barbershop-based hypertension studies in Texas and California. His most recent study, published in 2018 in The New England Journal of Medicine, showed participants assigned to a pharmacist-led, barbershop- based intervention across a network of 60 barbershops were nine times more likely to achieve optimal hypertension control (<130/80 mmHg) compared to barbershop patrons who were just referred back to their treating physician.

After Victor’s death, 12-month data published in the journal Circulation backed up the earlier study proving that the large treatment effect — a 21 mmHg greater reduction in systolic blood pressure — was sustainable in high-risk African American men.

With this understanding, Vanderbilt will begin a pilot research clinical trial for black men, who are traditionally less likely than white men to have regular preventive checkups with their doctor.

The Nashville barbershop study will help determine if Victor's model of collaborating with barbershops as a novel healthcare research hub can be replicated successfully in other cities. Smidt Heart Institute has provided guidance from a pharmacist and a barber who worked on the Los Angeles study.

"Dr. Victor was deeply involved in the planning and design of the Nashville study," said C. Adair Blyler, PharmD, CHC, who worked on the Los Angeles studies. "He hoped his work would demonstrate that this kind of hypertension intervention could be successfully implemented in a city very different from Los Angeles and would lead to similar efforts across the country."

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.

According to Jamal Stewart, owner of Masters Barbershop -- one of the project’s eight participating Nashville barbershops -- the project is important for helping to fill a gap in healthcare that affects many of his clients.

“I chose to participate in this project because I can see a true need for hypertension awareness,” said Stewart. “A considerable amount of people in our community are unaware of their condition. I am looking forward to the healing process by giving people a chance to educate themselves and the tools to combat hypertension.”

The study is also being done in collaboration with UCLA, CVS-Aetna, NashvilleHealth and My Brother’s Keeper in Nashville.

Patients with hypertension have a blood pressure score above 130 over 80, although those with the first number above 120 are now considered to have elevated blood pressure. If left untreated, hypertension can lead to heart failure, stroke and kidney disease. It’s often considered a silent killer because patients typically don’t feel symptoms until hypertension-related complications occur.

Read more in Discoveries magazine: Cutting Blood Pressure