Tulane-University-PRC-program-promotes-a-new-kind-of-Shop-Talk

Tulane University PRC program promotes a new kind of "Shop Talk"
Healthscaping – Issue 4
September 1, 2009

Barbers and hair stylists across Orleans Parish are working to improve their client's health along with their appearance through the Shop Talk Program, an initiative of the Prevention Research Center (PRC) at Tulane University.

The Tulane PRC has produced the Feel Good Guide: How to Stay Healthy, a 21-page full-color book that's prominently displayed in 25 participating shops across Orleans Parish. The guide explains how 10 manageable dietary and lifestyle changes can make a big difference in health.

Barbers and stylists in each of the participating shops are being trained as lay health advisors through the Shop Talk program. They will reinforce the information presented in the books by talking to their clients about healthy eating habits, getting more exercise and managing their blood pressure, among other topics.

Danny Townsend, owner of Danny's Divine Designs barbershop, says talking to customers about health is a natural extension of their conversations about each other's lives. He hopes the Shop Talk program will help him to educate his customers about underlying symptoms and important health behaviors.

PRC researchers have conducted baseline surveys of patrons at 12 of the participating barbershops and beauty salons; they will return to see if the program had an impact on clients' attitudes and behaviors regarding the health issues covered in the books. Six of the surveyed salons that did not receive the Feel Good Guides will serve as a control group in this serial cross-sectional study to see how their patrons' survey responses compare to those in the program.

The Feel Good Guide contains advice on: being more physically active, eating more fruits and vegetables, choosing low-salt foods, cutting back on junk food, diabetes care, reducing alcohol intake, lowering blood pressure, quitting smoking, colon cancer screening and safe sex. It also contains healthy recipe cards, a directory of area free clinics as well as a Body Mass Index calculator to determine healthy weight ranges.

"The barbershop book focuses on the simple things we can all do to improve our health," says Lisa Hoffman, PRC communications and training coordinator. "It will also draw people's attention to symptoms that may be indicative of an unknown condition in which medical care is necessary."

Shop Talk is primarily aimed at reaching African-Americans, who are disproportionally affected by chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers. The study's primary goal is to evaluate whether patrons' attitudes or behaviors change after being exposed to culturally competent health behavior information. The PRC also hopes to expand upon existing research that suggests that barbershops and beauty salons are appropriate venues for distributing health information and generating conversations between stylists and patrons about health.

Participating shops are located in Algiers, the Central Business District, Central City, Gentilly, eastern New Orleans, Mid-City, as well as the 7th, 8th and 9th Wards.

The study is expected to conclude by the end of fall.

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