Photo credit: Brian Quinn

October 23, 2017

In September 2017, The Cigna Foundation brought together World of Difference grant partners and non-profit leaders who work across the globe in a two-day forum to "Explore New Pathways to Community Health" in Boston. Presentations and interactive conversations fostered an environment of collaboration, sharing of ideas, addressing health disparities and finding shared solutions to better communities. Stephen Thomas (Professor, Health Services Administration and Director, Maryland Center for Health Equity) attended the forum with HAIR barber and shop owner Fred Spry.

Thomas and Spry simulated a mock haircut in a real barber chair during their presentation to demonstrate how health messages can be communicated by barbers, in the trusted and comfortable setting‪ their clients experience. Black barbershops and salons in Prince George’s County and Washington D.C. are the sites of the M-CHE’s Health Advocates In-Reach & Research (HAIR) program. HAIR is an initiative to train barbers and stylists to be lay-health advocates and deliver health messages and education to their clients. Research indicates barbershops and salons are effective venues for communicating information about health, and the barbers and stylists are trusted members of the community who are able to talk to their clients about health in a way that doctors cannot. One signature initiative of the HAIR is a colorectal cancer screening campaign, which was made possible through funding from Cigna Foundation’s World of Difference Grant Program.

The Cigna Foundation created a video to highlight portions of the conference, including Thomas and Spry’s haircut presentation. Dr. Thomas remarked that with advances in medical technology, “we no longer need to be tethered to a clinic or a hospital.” Instead, he noted, “we can bring health care and health services to the people, in the places where they live, work, worship, and play…and where they get their haircut.” To watch Cigna Foundation’s Video highlighting the Forum, click here or on the video below.

Photos of the event can be viewed here.


Related Links

World of Difference Forum Photos

Related People
Stephen B. Thomas