For many women, their hairdresser is one of their most trusted confidants and advisors. Now, Emory University School of Medicine researchers at Grady Memorial Hospital are counting on those special relationships to help save lives, as African-American hairdressers across metro Atlanta team up to educate their clients about stroke.
Led by Michael R. Frankel, MD, professor of neurology at the Emory University School of Medicine and chief of neurology at Grady Hospital, the Beauty Shop Stroke Education Program is a pilot study designed to heighten public awareness and educate African-American women about the risk factors, warning signs and symptoms of stroke in a comfortable, non-clinical environment.
The University of Cincinnati is the lead study site for this pilot program. Through the Emory arm of the project, 12 hairdressers in Atlanta, Decatur and Stone Mountain are providing stroke education to their regular clients.
The project is funded by a two-year $60,000 grant from the Hazel K. Goddess Foundation, and was launched earlier this month to commemorate Stroke Awareness Month.
Dr. Frankel says the project is particularly vital to the African-American community because African-American women have almost twice the risk of stroke when compared to Caucasian women. He says that African-Americans also tend to know significantly less about stroke than Caucasians.
Carolyn Moreland, owner of Hair Sculpture in Atlanta, says her personal experience with stroke compelled her to participate in the beauty shop project. Ms. Moreland suffered a stroke in November 2001, and now shares her knowledge about stroke with all her clients. Ms. Moreland's two daughters, who are also hairdressers at her salon, are also participating.
"I'm a living witness for my clients," says Ms. Moreland, who has been doing hair for 30 years. "Since they know that I've had a stroke, they are now more concerned about their health. They know if it can happen to me, it can happen to them. Now, they know the signs of stroke, like headaches and dizziness and that they should go to doctors to have themselves checked out. They really learn a lot."
Dr. Frankel says providing knowledge is key to the success of the project.
"As a hospital, Grady is committed to improving stroke risk in its patient population, and this project is a creative, grassroots way of educating African-American women about stroke," says Dr. Frankel, principal investigator of the Atlanta project. "We hope that this initiative will also be a way of educating people in the community who will then educate their family and friends about stroke."
Here is how the program works: Hairdressers, who received stroke education training before participating in the project, are given 10 survey packets to give to each of their regularly-scheduled clients who agree to participate. Clients take a pre-test survey regarding stroke warning signs and risk factors that also includes the subject's demographics and medical history. Each client then places her completed survey in a sealed envelope and turns it into the beautician.
After the pre-test survey, the beautician will educate her client, who in turn will receive education materials such as pamphlets, posters, cookbooks, the current issue of Stroke Connection magazine (a publication of the American Stroke Association), and a wallet card describing the signs and symptoms of stroke.
Sharion Sailor-Smith, RN, an Emory University School of Medicine neurology nurse clinician and stroke research recruitment coordinator, says that as caregivers, women are ideal targets for stroke education.
Hairdressers who want more information about stroke are encouraged to call the American Heart Association's stroke hotline at 1-888-478-7653.