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New program aims to snip high blood pressure in the bud

Yale New Haven Health’s Heart and Vascular Center (HVC) and the American Heart Association recently launched an initiative that provides blood pressure readings and information to area barbershop patrons.

This month, clinical staff from Yale New Haven Hospital’s HVC Preventive Cardiovascular Health Program were scheduled to visit Dexter’s Unisex Barbershop and Willie C’s Unisex Barbershop on Dixwell Avenue in New Haven to offer blood pressure readings and information about the risk factors associated with uncontrolled high blood pressure (hypertension). Staff planned to discuss next steps for patrons whose readings indicated they might need intervention, including referral to a healthcare provider. 

Erica Spatz, MD, director of the Preventive Cardiovascular Health Program, noted that hypertension is extremely common among Black men. In Connecticut, hypertension rates in the Black population exceed the national average.

Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to heart attacks, strokes and kidney disease, yet many men are unaware they have it, or do not want to come in for care, she said.

“We have an enormous opportunity to do better,” said Dr. Spatz, associate professor at Yale School of Medicine. “The barbers are amazing – they are community leaders, trusted confidants, and care a great deal about the health and well-being of their patrons. They are such an important link in raising our community’s health and we are very proud to work with them.”

Dr. Spatz said that hypertension screening is necessary, but not enough. 

“We need to build easy and trustful care pathways to control blood pressure and improve men’s health, and that is what we are doing,” she said.

“The goal of this program is to develop a network of trusted community leaders to address high rates of hypertension through education, connections to care, and self-measured blood pressure monitoring across our defined service areas,” said Adria Giordano, American Heart Association executive director. “By working with the Yale New Haven Health Heart and Vascular Center, we are able to reach and serve those communities who can benefit from this convenient program right in their own backyard.”