New Project Aims to Remedy Hypertension Among Black Men

Barbershops traditionally have been a gathering spot for Black men, places not only to get a haircut but also to socialize. Now there is an effort underway to make the barbershop a place of health and wellness learning.

Two College of Pharmacy faculty are leading a project to put pharmacists into barbershops in an effort to improve the health of Black men, who as a group have high rates of hypertension and stroke. The team will train barbers and stylists to screen for blood pressure, discuss the importance of taking their medications, and live a healthy lifestyle with their clients. They also intend to embed a pharmacist in the barbershop to adjust medications, when necessary.

Gina Ryan, Pharm.D., chair of the Department of Pharmacy Practice, and Jenn Nguyễn, Ph.D., assistant professor of pharmacy practice, will launch the project at a barbershop in Stone Mountain, Ga., after receiving contracts from the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors and the Georgia Department of Public Health, totaling $24,340. They hope to grow the number of locations in the future.

“Pharmacists can start the conversation about controlling hypertension and reducing the occurrence of stroke,” Dr. Nguyễn said. “We are targeting Black men aged 30 to 55 years because hypertension is so prevalent in this population. This project will make people more aware of what pharmacists can do, and it invites pharmacists to practice at the top of their license.”

Dr. Nguyễn envisions training barbers to slip a blood pressure cuff on a client’s arm when they snap a cape on for a haircut. A previous study conducted in Los Angeles with pharmacists-led medication management led to a significant lowering of blood pressure among the barbershop’s customers.