Doctors are relying on beauticians and barbers to spread awareness of health issues like stroke , prostate cancer and others.
What they can do may be as vital as any doctor, drug or diagnostic test.
A study slated for presentation this week at the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference suggests beauty shops may be an ideal place to educate minority women about strokes.
In the study, researchers gave lessons on stroke prevention and warning signs to beauticians in black-run beauty shops in Cincinnati and Atlanta.
The beauticians then discussed stroke-related issues with their clients, who also received a packet that included heart-healthy cookbooks, wallet cards listing stroke warning signs, and other stroke-related materials.
At the start of the study, 40.7 percent of the women surveyed knew three stroke-warning signs, compared to 50.6 percent after five months.
The study also found an 8 percent increase in the women who knew to call 911 immediately in the event of a stroke, and a 7 percent increase in the women who recognized stroke when they were given a clinical scenario.
After the trainings, there were two recorded cases of beauticians being able to prevent their clients from suffering a stroke due to timely intervention.
Overall, the findings demonstrate that these kinds of community-based programs are an effective method of educating minority groups about stroke risk according to study lead author Dr. Dawn Kleindorfer, a stroke neurologist and associate professor at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine in Ohio.
Virgil Simons, head of the advocacy group Prostate Net supports this notion.
He signed up hundreds of barbers to talk to customers about prostate cancer in 2004, to coincide with release of the movie "BarberShop 2."
According to Simons, the barber is :a pillar of the community, a business leader, a culturally credible communicator- and he is the best person to quiz persons on how regular they are with their cancer screenings.
Simons' project has reached more than 10,000 men in its first year and now includes more than 800 barbers around the country.
Other such groups use beauticians to raise awareness of breast cancer and mammograms.