A new study published Monday in the New England Journal of Medicine offers a clear reminder that you can get a lot of good done by meeting people where they are, rather than where you’d like them to be. It found that a health program organized through barbershops was very effective at helping non-Hispanic black men lower their blood pressure.
Researchers in Los Angeles recruited more than 50 black-owned barbershops to take part in a randomized experiment over almost two years.
The barbers were all trained to take the blood pressure of interested customers, and to nudge those with hypertension to see a doctor for a check-up as well as to eat healthier and become more active. But 28 barbershops were also asked to refer their customers to regularly meet with a specially trained pharmacist who would prescribe or adjust their blood pressure medication over a period of six months (the pharmacist would confirm with a physician to ensure they were giving safe drugs covered by insurance).
Oftentimes, the pharmacist would even meet the patient at the barbershop for their check-up. These pharmacist-supported barbershops, unlike the control group, would also have posters on the wall detailing authentic stories from past patients who enjoyed taking part in the study, known as the “Cut Your Pressure Too: The LA Barbershop Blood Pressure Study.”