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Heart health with a haircut: Bringing care to underserved communities

August 22, 2019 | Heart Health

U.S. Rep. Steven Horsford receives a blood pressure check at the recent CVS Health Las Vegas barbershop event.
A man and a woman check into health screening event.
Community members who attended the barbershop event received free health screenings, as well as blood pressure, cholesterol, weight and glucose monitoring.

A recent heart health community event in Las Vegas highlighted our ability to reach underserved communities, diagnosing and treating people who may not typically have easy access to health care services.

The event in partnership with U.S. Rep. Steven Horsford’s office was held outside a local African American barbershop as a way to bring needed health care to an area with few providers.

“Barbershops and salons provide safe places to have honest conversations about our lives, our health and our community,” said Horsford, noting the important role these spaces play as neighborhood gathering points. “The health care shortage in Nevada is very hard on the African American and Hispanic communities, and we need more companies like CVS Health to step into that gap.”

Health disparities continue to be an issue affecting minority communities, including Nevada. In 2017, the African American community in Nevada had the highest mortality rates of heart disease (291.7 per 100,000 people). This is in contrast to the aggregate rate of heart disease among all race/ethnicity groups (206.5 per 100,000 people).1

The day’s activities showcased how CVS Health and Aetna are bringing together the combined power of a health care provider and insurer to help consumers achieve improved health. In addition to the free health screenings, including blood pressure, cholesterol, weight and glucose monitoring, a local MinuteClinic practitioner was on site to help patients navigate their health concerns.

“Our vision as a combined company is to help people achieve their unique health ambitions,” said Daniel Knecht, M.D., Vice President of Clinical Strategy and Innovation for CVS Health. “This kind of hyper-local care model allows us to step into the community, and successfully engage with the people we serve in a culturally appropriate and personalized manner.”

Screening results reinforced the need for such care models, especially in underserved communities like West Las Vegas. Over 70 percent of participants had an abnormal blood pressure reading, more than double the national average.

Additionally, over 50 percent had an abnormal glucose reading; the national average sits below 10 percent.2

Recent studies have demonstrated the key role barbershops play not only in screening but connecting patients to ongoing treatment. In April 2018, a landmark trial published in the New England Journal of Medicine found significant, sustained reductions in blood pressure among patients who engaged with a pharmacist in the barbershop.3 CVS Health is working closely with these national experts to bring the model to more communities.

Horsford, who had coronary artery bypass surgery at the age of 40, understands the importance of hypertension management and living a healthy lifestyle. He noted that events like the heart health clinic can extend health care services to where they’re needed most.

“In the African American community, we don’t talk enough or share enough between the generations. We need to break the cycle of health care disparities,” he said. “I appreciate CVS Health’s desire to bring their services into the community.”

An afternoon panel discussion moderated by Horsford and featuring CVS Health leaders engaged local community leaders and providers in a conversation about the special health care needs of underserved communities and potential solutions.

David Casey, Chief Diversity Officer for CVS Health, noted that the U.S. health care system needs to do a better job “figuring out how to bring personalized health care to consumers not just where they live, but how they live.”

He pointed to CVS Health initiatives such as Building Healthier Communities, a five-year, $100-million commitment to support critical partnerships with nonprofit organizations, as an example of effective public-private efforts. Another new initiative called Destination: Health will help some of Aetna's most vulnerable Medicaid and Dual eligible members access social services within their community more easily.

Las Vegas boasts nine MinuteClinics, which provide walk-in services seven days a week. Nurse practitioners and physician assistants offer expert medical care for a wide array of minor illnesses, minor injuries and skin conditions as well as monitoring of chronic conditions and the provision of immunizations and physicals.

1 Minority Health Report 2019, Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health and Equity;