Health in a Hair Salon: Outreach Project Rooted in Beauty Shop

From the National Library of Medicine:

MaFlo’s Beauty Salon in Georgetown, SC, population 8,441, is a compact 20-by-20-foot wooden-frame building with a newly erected sign in front that reads: “MaFlo’s Hairstyles & Designs by Marilynn–Health Awareness Team.”  In front, as you enter, are three hair drying chairs with portraits of clients on the walls above; on the right are two styling chairs; and on the left is a waiting area with several comfortable chairs, a desktop computer workstation, two laptops and a printer.

The styling and drying chairs are usually occupied and the computers switched on with several people gathered around screens displaying health information from the National Library of Medicine (NLM) consumer health Web site MedlinePlus.  “People sit around talking at a hair salon,” says Marilynn Lance-Robb, the founder and owner for the last 13 years of MaFlo’s Beauty Salon. “They’ll say to me that they have been diagnosed with something, maybe diabetes.  And we’ll look it up.”

Finding health information in a hair salon may seem like an odd combination, but it makes perfect sense. In addition to owning MaFlo’s, Lance-Robb teaches health and computer classes at the local library on her day off. And the computers with Wi-Fi Internet access at MaFlo’s are part of an innovative program that seeks to bring health information to underserved people. The funding comes from the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NN/LM), Southeastern/Atlantic Region (SE/A). The National Network of Libraries of Medicine, anchored by eight Regional Medical Libraries and coordinated by the National Library of Medicine, was created to help health providers and the public access health information no matter where they live or work.

“We try to go to where the people are,” says Nancy Patterson, the Community Outreach Coordinator for Southeastern/Atlantic Regional Medical Library. “I call it ‘thinking inside the blocks.'” That means, she says, bringing health information to underserved people in their own environment.

To read the complete story, click here.


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