Wednesday, October 29, 2008

US health education in barbershops and beauty salons

As part of its mission to train the next generation of physicians and scientists, the Mayo Clinic Center for Translational Science Activities (CTSA) offers the Health Disparities Field Experience, a unique course through Mayo Graduate School. For this year's fieldwork, course scholars and faculty are joining with the Center for Minority Health (CMH) at the University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Public Health in its innovative program called 'Take a Health Professional to the People Day' on Sept. 18, 2008. This event has been recognized nationally with a feature on the Web site of the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NCMHD), National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Health disparities — the gaps in health care access and outcomes among different populations — lead to higher rates of chronic illness, disability and death from preventable causes for minorities. Now in its seventh year, Take a Health Professional to the People Day deploys teams of physicians, nurses, pharmacists, dentists and public health educators to 10 barbershops and beauty salons in inner-city Pittsburgh to deliver health information and health screenings to customers. In 2007, 150 health professionals screened more than 556 African-Americans in these neighborhood settings.

Why take health education efforts to barbershops and beauty salons?

These settings are effective because they are familiar community assets and trusted institutions in African-American neighborhoods where people gather to connect and exchange information. "Far too many African-Americans have no 'medical home' to access health care services, so government programs that promote 'taking a loved one to the doctor' are not as effective for this community," explains Stephen B. Thomas, Ph.D., director of CMH and the Philip Hallen Professor of Community Health and Social Justice. "Therefore, CMH created Take a Health Professional to the People Day. By focusing our efforts on a single day, we believe we can help generate a greater understanding of the importance of regular health screenings while at the same time reaching people who tend to have the least access to health care." In addition, the program serves as an excellent training opportunity for health professionals, who benefit from engaging minority populations outside of the clinical environment.

For more information about Take A Health Professional to the People Day, the NIH-NCMHD Research Center for Excellence in Minority Health Disparities, and other activities of the University of Pittsburgh Center for Minority Health, visit the University of Pittsburg Center for Minority Health Web site.