Health Education :: A new style of public health education

Starting in West Philadelphia, a program will use hair salons as a venue to teach women about diabetes and asthma.

“Many women in our communities have regular sources of hair care, not medical care,” said Ruth Browne, head of the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health, a Brooklyn, N.Y., group that has run similar programs in New York City since 1996.

Yesterday, at a free health screening and spa day at City Hall, the group announced that starting in July, it would provide training and materials to 10 hair salons in West Philadelphia. Another 10 salons will participate in North Philadelphia starting in the fall, Browne said.

The new program will target inner-city African American and Latina women, who tend to suffer more from asthma and diabetes than other groups.

The Philadelphia initiative, called Black Pearls for African American women and Nuestra Belleza for Latinas is expected to reach 1,400 women within eight months, Browne said, not counting friends and relatives.

The effort is financed with a $300,000 grant from GlaxoSmithKline. The drug firm did not help develop the program’s materials, and will not use it to advertise its drugs, said Thais McNeal, senior manager for the firm’s Healthy Communities program.

Asthma and diabetes are major health concerns. An estimated 17 million Americans suffer from asthma, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, and 18 million have diabetes, reports the American Diabetes Association.

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