A new study finds that patients who participated in a patient navigator program in which they enrolled at their barbershops were twice as likely to get screened for colorectal cancer.

The new clinical trial was led by the Department of Population Health at NYU Langone Health, and published recently in the American Journal of Public Health. It is the first, say the authors, to evaluate patient navigation—where health care staff guide patients toward colorectal cancer screening in a timely fashion.

From late 2009 to late 2013, community health workers visited 111 interested barbershops in all five boroughs of New York City, screening 4,025 Black male customers or nearby residents aged 50 or older for eligibility based on whether they were up-to-date for colorectal screening. The study then enrolled 731 men in one of three groups.

Six months after enrollment, 17.5 percent of men who were enrolled in the patient navigation arm and 17.8 percent of men who got both patient navigation and motivational interviewing were screened for colorectal cancer, compared with 8.4 percent of those who received no extra support for colorectal cancer screening.

The participants faced several challenges in getting adequate health care, according to study findings. Only 60 percent had a personal physician, and only 40 percent had received a checkup within the past year. Many were uninsured and had low health literacy.

“Black men are less likely than the general population to be insured and to have a personal doctor, which is why we went beyond the clinic and to the community,” said Joseph Ravenell, M.D., MPH, the principal investigator of the study and associate professor in the Department of Population Health at NYU Langone’s Center for Healthful Behavior Change. “Barbershops in particular hold special appeal for community-based intervention trials, are popular forums for open conversation and could be leveraged to lessen the death rate from colorectal cancer in Black men.”