Jan. 27 (UPI) -- A shave, a haircut and a blood test?
In many communities, barbershops have proved to be an effective way to reach people at high risk for certain health conditions for screening and education.
Now, a study published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine suggests they may be a good place to test black men for type 2 diabetes.
"Diabetes screening is especially important among black men because, unfortunately, they have some of the highest rates of diabetic complications and early diabetes-related death," study co-author David Lee, an emergency medicine physician at NYU Langone Health in New York, told UPI. "Not only are they at risk for developing diabetes at a much earlier age, but they are probably also diagnosed too late. My colleagues at NYU have had a long history of reaching out to black men using barbershops as a community-based setting to promote health."
Research has indicated that, at least in the United States, black men are at significantly higher risk for type 2 diabetes than women and men of other ethnic groups. In all, more than 13 percent of black men nationwide have the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, compared 8.7 percent of white males.
Over an 18-month period, Lee and his colleagues tested customers at eight barbershops owned by black individuals in Brooklyn neighborhoods previously identified as having a high prevalence of diabetes, using the the A1CNow+ test, which measures the percentage of hemoglobin A1C, or HbA1C, in blood. HbA1C is chemically linked with sugar, and high blood sugar is the most common sign of type 2 diabetes.
Study participants with an HbA1c level of 6.5 percent or higher on a single test were considered to have type 2 diabetes, and those with an HbA1c higher than 5.7 percent -- the recognized minimum for a diagnosis of prediabetes -- were educated about the importance of modifying their diet and physical activity and were provided contact information for local primary care clinics.
Of the 895 black men asked to participate, 312 agreed to be screened and 290 were successfully tested, with 22 excluded either because they had a blood disorder or an error during the initial test. Among the 583 men who refused screening, 331 provided a reason for refusal, with 187 saying they already knew their health status and 117 indicating that they were healthy or not interested in being tested.
In addition, 26 men said they were scared of needles. Only one participant specifically told the researchers they did not want to be tested in a barbershop.
Among the 290 men tested, 26, or 9 percent, had an HbA1c level of 6.5 percent or higher. Additionally, 82 participants, or approximately 28 percent, had an HbA1c level between 5.7 and 6.4 percent, and met the criteria for prediabetes.
Lee said the findings should lead to follow-up research focused on the best approaches for diabetes screening in communities of color.
"Now that we have identified these black men with previously undiagnosed diabetes and prediabetes, what is the best approach for treating them and helping them improve their health habits?," he asked. "In addition, are barbershops the best setting for doing this work or could there be other community-based settings that could also be used to promote early diabetes screening among black men and other minority groups?"