Alabama Program Teaches Cosmetologists and College Students to Conduct Community-Based Health Outreach
Faculty in the Department of Nursing at Oakwood College in Huntsville, Ala., trained cosmetologists and others to deliver community-based health education and screening services.
The goal of the project was to eliminate disparities in health outcomes related to breast and prostate cancer among primarily African-American populations in rural and inner-city Alabama.
For a 16-month period starting January 2002, project staff trained cosmetologists to deliver health messages in the Huntsville area about breast cancer. They, in turn, reached nearly 400 women with the information.
- Project staff trained 45 practicing and student cosmetologists to deliver health messages to clients about breast cancer risks and early detection.
- The staff hosted two "Purple Teas" in local churches in the Huntsville area at which they presented information on breast cancer risk factors, prevention, early detection and self-examination.
- Teams pairing Oakwood College nursing and religion students gave 38 presentations with short health messages at area church meetings.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) supported this project with a grant of $50,000 from January 2002 to April 2003.
Statistics show that African-American men and women suffer a disproportionately high death rate from cancer, including breast and prostate cancer, when compared to other racial groups. Health care professionals report that regular screening and early detection for these and other diseases would significantly reduce the death rates among African-Americans.
A Vice President's grant funded this project. While not designed to further the specific aims and strategies of RWJF's Vulnerable Populations grantmaking, the project uses a similar approach in taking into account cultural differences in how people obtain their health information.
In the 16-month-period beginning January 2002, faculty in the Department of Nursing at Oakwood College provided training to cosmetologists and others in community-based health education and screening services with the goal of eliminating disparities in health outcomes related to breast and prostate cancer among primarily African-American populations in rural and inner-city Alabama.
The project also supplied information on other diseases including hypertension, diabetes, HIV/AIDS and heart disease. The college partnered with churches and other community sites in the city of Huntsville and the nearby town of Toney, for the project. Although Highway 53 Medical Center in Toney was to provide clinical backup and referral, it participated only minimally in this project.
Project staff planned to train local cosmetologists, barbers and pastors to deliver health messages and screening encouragement to community residents; they also planned to train teams of students from the college's department of nursing and the department of religion and theology to give community health promotion presentations.
While exceeding enrollment goals for cosmetologists and students, project staff was not able to interest local barbers in attending training for education on prostate cancer, and pastors were reluctant to deliver health messages during religious services.
The project director notes that the failure of barbers to participate may be because African-American men are reluctant to discuss prostate cancer. She reports that local pastors felt their worship services were already so full they were unwilling to add health information.
The project director reported the following results to RWJF:
- Project staff trained 45 practicing and student cosmetologists to deliver health messages to clients about breast cancer risks and early detection through a presentation featuring discussion, visual aids and practice on a breast model. For cosmetologists the staff loaned salon operators breast models to place in their salons for customers to practice self-examination techniques and supplied written material concerning breast and testicular cancer. For students, staff gave a similar presentation to the 20012002 and 20022003 cosmetology classes at Drake State Technical College in Huntsville. Staff estimated that the individuals they trained reached nearly 400 patrons with this information.
- The staff hosted two "Purple Teas" in local chures in the Huntsville area at which they presented information on breast cancer risk factors, prevention, early detection and self-examination. Ninety people attended the teas.
- Teams pairing Oakwood College nursing and religion students gave 38 presentations with short health messages on a range of diseases and health measures at area church meetings. Audiences ranged from a dozen to several hundred. The students trained for the presentations through courses developed for the college's departments of nursing and religion. One student team also gave a presentation on substance abuse at the freshman men's dormitory at the college.
- Project staff and students conducted three health fairs and took part in three others reaching an estimated 500 people. Fair activities included weight assessments, vision screenings, blood pressure and sugar (diabetes) measurements, diet counseling, breast self-examination techniques and smoking risk demonstrations. Fair attendees received printed information, in Spanish and/or English, on a variety of diseases and received a card listing screening findings and referrals when appropriate. Participation involved two fairs at a rural church in Toney, two held in a New Market, church, one at the Oakwood Academy high school in Huntsville and a pediatric screening by nursing students at Oakwood College.
- The staff distributed approximately 8,000 pieces of educational printed material through churches, beauty salons, schools and health fairs. Materials included brochures from national organizations such as the American Diabetes Association, the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute; one handout was a card demonstrating breast and testicular self-examination that can be used in the shower.
The project provided written material to community residents concerning health. It produced no publications.
- A series of small efforts at the most basic community level can affect people's health awareness and behavior. By working through familiar community institutions beauty salons and churches the project staff was able to contact people personally to help them improve their health status. (Project Director)
AFTER THE GRANT
The project staff plans to continue rotating the breast models among salons and to train new groups of salon owners. Staff members will present information about breast cancer to all students at Drake State Technical College and, nursing and religion students will give presentations and screenings at area health fairs. Project staff also plan to conduct more church-based Purple Teas offering breast cancer information.
The course to train students in giving health presentations has become an integral part of the freshman curriculum for nursing and religion students at Oakwood College; these students are presenting health information at campus dormitories in the 20032004 academic year.
GRANT DETAILS & CONTACT INFORMATION
Providing Community-Based Health Education and Screening Services for African-Americans
Oakwood College Department of Nursing (Huntsville, AL)
Dates: January 2002 to April 2003
Carol M. Allen, Ph.D.
Report prepared by: Janet Spencer King
Reviewed by: James Wood
Reviewed by: Marian Bass
Program Officer: Pamela S. Dickson