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Barbershop Diabetes Test Yields Benefits in African American Community

Researchers using these neighborhood social hubs as screening centers

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Jetta Productions Inc/Getty Images

A novel way to find undiagnosed cases of diabetes in the male African American community — using neighborhood barbershops as a screening center — can help identify those who have the condition but may not know it and have gone untreated, according to new research.

Choosing neighborhoods that had been pinpointed as “having a high prevalence of poor glycemic control,” researchers approached customers at eight barbershops in Brooklyn, New York, that have black owners. The customers were asked whether they wanted to be tested for diabetes via a conventional blood exam. Would-be participants were initially screened, and those who had already been diagnosed with diabetes were excluded from the testing.

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Among those who took part, 9 percent were deemed diabetic from the blood test readings, a significantly higher rate than the estimated 3.6 percent of diabetes cases in New York City as a whole. Some 28.3 percent of participants were classified as prediabetic. The median age of men diagnosed with diabetes was 41; they ranged in age from 22 to 65.

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The research was published recently in JAMA Internal Medicine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that when screened, African American adults are 60 percent more likely than non-Hispanic whites to receive a diabetes diagnosis.

Researchers said in the study that the results show the benefits of such intervention.

"Our findings suggest that community-based diabetes screening in barbershops owned by black individuals may play a role in the timely diagnosis of diabetes,” the researchers wrote in their conclusion.

A 2015–17 experiment in African American barbershops in Los Angeles to treat uncontrolled hypertension among customers yielded similar results.

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