Teaming Up to Tackle Hypertension
Interprofessional Approach Seeks to Improve the Health of African-American Men
ST. LOUIS -- Saint Louis University students from multiple health care disciplines are working together to offer free blood pressure screenings and prostate cancer education to African-American men at 15 local barbershops through April 2.
A student screens a barbershop customer for elevated blood pressure.
The weekly barbershop tour, which takes place Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays continues a simple yet innovative health initiative: target high-risk populations by taking the information and screenings directly to them.
The service project is part of a unique interprofessional education (IPE) class that prepares SLU students to work in a multidisciplinary environment with other health care professionals. The students visiting barbershops are majoring in nursing, investigative medical sciences and athletic training.
At the barbershops, students work together measuring blood pressure and counseling participants on diet modifications, such as lowering sodium intake, the importance of exercise for health and the need to keep in touch with their primary health care provider.
Last year SLU students screened about 285 men for high blood pressure. They found that more than 73 percent had high blood pressure readings, which can lead to stroke and cardiovascular diseases. When a blood pressure reading was above normal, students advised the participants to see their doctor or referred them to local, low-cost health care providers if they didn't already have one.
This year, students are also collaborating with The Empowerment Network , a group of local prostate cancer survivors, to educate individuals on the risks of developing prostate cancer.
Hypertension and prostate cancer are two serious conditions that disproportionately affect African-American men. According to the American Heart Association, uncontrolled hypertension accounts for as many as one in four African-American deaths. African-American men also have the highest rate of prostate cancer in the world and the lowest rate of survival, according to the American Cancer Society.
While the free screenings provide a great opportunity for students to gain clinical experience, it's the lesson in teamwork that is most valuable, according to Sheila Leander, assistant professor of nursing.
"One of the biggest challenges in health care is that most practitioners are educated in silos with no understanding of what other professionals do," Leander said. "Once they enter the professional arena, they are expected to be part of an interprofessional team."
Given SLU's emphasis on holistic learning, it is no surprise the University is one of the nation's leaders in interprofessional education. In 2006, the School of Nursing and the Doisy College of Health Sciences became the first in the country to embed IPE into their undergraduate core curriculum, SLU's School of Medicine was one of the first medical schools to require an integrated course in IPE.
Through lectures, simulated experiences and clinical activities such as the barbershop tour, SLU students gain a better understanding of the roles and responsibilities of other professionals. This team approach is critical in providing the best possible care for patients.
"The important aspect here is our students are learning how to be part of an effective team by working with real people. They're learning how to provide patient-centered care, as part of a team," Leander said.
For more information about SLU's IPE program, click here.