Health care doesn’t mean stethoscopes and a white jacket. At least, not anymore. It’s about how the information is presented and the context it’s given in. In an effort to combat common health conditions, like hypertension, amongst Hispanic and African Americans, researchers initiated an intervention at a surprising start: the local barbershop. They had barbers host pharmacists in their barbershop, where patrons received drug therapy. After 6 months, the group with the barber-pharmacist collaboration saw 66% of patrons’s blood pressure drop nearly to the normal range. What’s particular stellar is the percentage of men that remained in the study; 95% of men followed the study through to its completion. Beauty shops could utilize their position to be a source of wellness, thinking beyond customer retention techniques.
Why are these results incredible? Firstly, this particular demographic is extremely difficult to reach and thereby, treat. Majority of men earn less than $50,000 a year, with 40% earning less than 25% per year. Obesity and diabetes are common amongst this demographic. A third of study participants were active smokers. Given the financial and daily stresses this demographic of men may face, it’s no surprise health care may not be on the forefront of their minds. Or it may be difficult for them to afford, creating another barrier for overall wellness. According to the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities, African Americans face higher uninsured rates than other racial groups.
Expanding health outcomes for certain groups requires innovative work, just like the barbershop initiative. This study is not the first program to spear head the link between the health and the beauty industry. The first documented outreach program took place in Colorado in 1978. For decades, researchers and beauticians have had a hunch that they could make a difference together. The recent study shows that, crafted carefully, it can have huge dividends.
What makes a barbershop or salon so special in health outcomes?
For this community, the barbershop is a cornerstone of exchange, discussion, and outreach. Patrons are members of the community and feel safe with each other, often knowing each other personally for a period of time.
Attendees did not have to make appointments, arrange transportation, or wait.
Combined together, the program may have tapped into a new model of treatment.
But health goes beyond the physical body.
Beauty shops could be the focal of greater community wellness.
Other community initiatives include “Barbershop Books”. This Columbus, Ohio program puts children books in local beauty shops, giving children to opportunity to read whilst their parent or aunt gets a haircut or manicure. At a Louisiana barbershop, public officials are invited to talk about community issues, opening the floor up to heart-to-heart discussion. “The barber shop is the best place, the best answers,” says one customer, “They’ll give you their heart and their honest to God opinions in the shop.”
Want to start your own community health-beauty collaboration?
1. Create a budget
According to the Beauty an Health Toolkit, “The cost of designing, implementing, and analyzing a barbershop and salon program can be relatively nothing to millions depending on the scope of the program and the services rendered.”
2. Recruit volunteers
Spread the word through volunteers. You’ll need community members to do activities like blood pressure screenings, educate about different therapies, or log sheets. Volunteers don’t have to be medical professionals. Only specific tests, like testing lipid levels, require a trained professional. Volunteers are essential as they keep the pulse on what’s happening within the community. Think of local churches, religious or non-religious groups that already do outreach programs. Show them this a novel method to service their community.
3.Involve a health professional—but you don’t have to
What’s great about this program: you don’t have to involve a health professional. You can tailor the program to using just volunteers. It’s always helpful to have a physician volunteering to overview services, but not necessary. Talk to local clinics asking if they would be interested in donating swabs, bandaids, or other necessary equipment. Talk to nurses or physician assistants. Their expertise and possible healthcare connections might prove useful in offering additional service.
For more information about the “nitty gritty” of the process (including consent forms), here’s a link to the Colorado Barbershop and Salon Health Outreach Program.
At Shore, we recognize our customers offer more than their advertised services; our customers prioritize the needs of their own communities. We aim to continuously support them in this work, managing their day-to-day operations.