Action Wheel Leadership

Innovative Processes to Address Long Standing Medical Issues

Addressing the hidden killer of hypertension in the African American community - Kevin Beacon


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It is common knowledge that cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a silent killer amongst the African American community. Each year 33.6% of the 290,000 annual deaths come from the African American community. 

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Innovative Medical Processes

A significant root cause of CVD and strokes is hypertension (HTN) – a diagnosis attributed to more than 40% of the African American community. Unfortunately, few African Americans are doing much to combat this health risk.

The reasons for not addressing hypertension extend to obesity, lack of exercise, and increased salt sensitivity. By the time African American’s see the doctor the disease is advanced. 

Many African Americans fear medicine and doctors in general. Others see the high cost of medical care and feel they can’t afford it.  And yet, the health concern can be treated and lives saved…if men and women would check their blood pressure on a regular basis.

In considering this problem Dr. Beacon wrestled with how to make healthcare more accessible to the African American community, and, how to deliver healthcare at a lower cost. Where could he put a delivery system where consumers are already gathering? Kevin came up with the idea of a barbershop.

His idea formulated around the notion that all African American men and women come together at the barbershop to discuss sports, politics, and current events. Could there be a way to have blood pressure machines on-hand for African American men and women to check their pulse rate?

By putting blood pressure machines in barbershops (salons), with instructions on how to make sense of the scores, Kevin felt like he could create a win/win for helping African Americans with their health while steering them away from their phobias about doctors.

Taking responsibility to make this dream a reality, Kevin moved forward with research on this idea. He was surprised when he found that others were already heading down this path. He determined he could evaluate the many trial approaches and find the best solution for this problem. With information in hand Kevin contacted several other local doctors and discussed the idea of starting several pilot projects in key local areas.

The planning phase opened up many insights not previously considered. For instance, Kevin had to consider what “was in it” for the local barbers. The addition of a blood pressure machine could cause inconvenience to the shop in terms of location and usability. Kevin also had to consider how to influence the community to actually use the machine once it was there. Having it there was one thing, using it was another.

How could Kevin entice the barbers to encourage their clientele to use the machine? Then there was the problem of knowledge. Many men and women simply don’t know what the scores mean once they received them. What messages and processes need to be put in place to get the community to learn what the blood pressure scores mean and how to interpret them? Lastly, even if they found out how to use the machines and what the scores mean, how could Kevin translate this into actually booking men and women into doctor’s appointments?

Many doctors, like Kevin, are seeking new and innovative ways to take medicine to the constituents that need it most. Kevin’s creative idea is only ramping up with many issues to be considered, however, this innovative approach is one of many that medical communities are considering as they weigh how to address systemic health concerns that have proven to be tough to address.  

Project Impact: Presenting the hypertension concern via a project report allowed Kevin the opportunity to brainstorm and consider new avenues for meeting the hypertension challenge facing the African American community.  The process allowed Kevin to clarify what was at stake and what he had to focus on to make this strategy work.

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