Leader's Edge magazine
March 11, 2019

Professor Stephen Thomas meets people where they are. For the African-Americans he wants to educate about preventing diseases like colon cancer, that’s the barbershop.

Thomas, director of the Maryland Center for Health Equity at the School of Public Health, operates the center’s HAIR program (Health Advocates In-Reach and Research), an intervention that trains barbers to advocate for their clients’ health. Leader’s Edge, a magazine for the insurance industry, featured the initiative on the cover of its March issue.

“There is no other venue where you have such a ranging socioeconomic spectrum,” Thomas told the magazine. “A barbershop is a gem. It’s only when you get exposed to it that you can realize how amazing it is.”

It’s that realization — that barbershops and beauty salons are important meeting spaces in communities — that inspired Thomas to found the program more than 10 years ago, when he worked at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.

When Thomas and his research team came to the University of Maryland in 2010 to launch the Maryland Center for Health Equity, they brought HAIR to the Washington area. The program here, which is supported with funding from CIGNA, focuses on increasing screenings for colorectal cancer, which disproportionately affects African Americans, as well as fostering healthy lifestyles more generally.

The program first helps barbers and stylists improve their own health before empowering them to educate their clients.

“It’s about building trust in a community of need,” Marilyn Lynk, director of the Center for Health Equity at Adventist, one of the program’s local partners, told Leader’s Edge. “These barbers could really be advocates. They could talk about how they did this themselves, how their blood pressure was high and now how eating better or taking medications improved it.”

Read the article here: https://leadersedgemagazine.com/articles/2019/03/the-doctor-is-in/.

Related Links

The Doctor Is In: A Community-Based Education Program Trains Barbers as Health Advocates

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Stephen B. Thomas