When you think of a barbershop, images of men sitting around talking about sports, debating politics and discussing life probably comes to mind.
Besides the actual haircut, this social connection is why males, especially many African Americans, frequent barbershops.
Interestingly, starting in 2015, barbershops across Los Angeles will double as a doctor’s office. That’s right, patrons will sit down in the chair to receive a haircut and get a complementary blood pressure check to boot.
It’s all part of a study being conducted by Dr. Ronald Victor, the director of L.A.’s Cedars-Sinai Center for Hypertension, after he recently received an $8.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to research the impact of early barbershop intervention on high blood pressure in African-American males.
Unfortunately, high blood pressure is much more common among this demographic than any other group. Not only do they have a greater chance of contracting it at a younger age, but it’s also more likely that the problem will escalate, causing a stroke or heart disease.
Due to the lack of preventative care, the death rate of African-American males from hypertension is two times higher than in white males.
Which is why Victor and his partner, Los Angeles cardiologist Dr. Anthony Reid, are going to the heart of (pun intended) the African-American male community to solve the problem.
“Barbers are trusted peers,” Victor tells City Lab. “They have a lot of respect in their community, more than healthcare workers.”
Victor’s study is looking to expand on the research of an earlier study conducted in Dallas, where scientists studied the impact of barber intervention in 17 barbershops affecting 1,300 patrons during a 10-month-long period.
Now, Victor’s research will expand not only the knowledge gained, but the amount of participants. Lasting for at least 18 months, barbers will regularly check the blood pressure of their clients and refer them to physicians when needed.
This isn’t the first time doctors have tried to address this problem. Mobile clinics are found across inner cities and, oftentimes, clinics are set up in churches. However, most of the time, it’s mainly women and children attending them. But this time around, it’s just for the men.
In the end, Victor hopes that the comfy, reclining barbershop chair can help this become a scalable solution to a problem facing men nationwide.
So sit back, relax and get ready for the haircut that might just save your life.
MORE: How Lawyers, Not Doctors, Can Cure the Illnesses of Many Low-Income Families