Beauty salons teach women about stroke

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Beauty shops are not just a good place for a haircut anymore. In a new study, researchers describe how they used beauty shops to get their message across about stroke warning signs and risk factors.

The public is fairly uninformed about strokes and what the early warning signs look like, Dr. Dawn Kleindorfer, from the University of Cincinnati, Ohio, and colleagues note in the journal Stroke. This knowledge is particularly lacking in groups that are at high risk for stroke, such as blacks.

To improve knowledge about strokes, the researchers designed an educational intervention that took place in beauty salons in Cincinnati and Atlanta -- two major urban areas with large black communities.

With the intervention, 30 black beauticians were informed about stroke warning signs and risk factors. The beauticians then passed this knowledge on to clients during appointments. Questionnaires were used to assess the clients’ stroke knowledge before and after the intervention.

Stroke warning signs were taught as the mnemonic “FAST” to inform subjects that changes in the Face (droopiness), Arm (weakness), and Speech (slurring of words) often occur during a stroke and that as soon as these symptoms are seen, it is Time to call 911. The subjects were also taught about several stroke risk factors, such as older age, smoking, and high cholesterol levels.

Of the 383 women who completed a pre-intervention survey, 318 also completed a survey after the intervention.

With the intervention, the percentage of women who could name three stroke warning signs increased from roughly 41 percent to 51 percent. Moreover, the percentage of women who knew the importance of immediately calling 911 rose from 86 percent to 94 percent.

However, the percentage of women who could name three stroke risk factors did not improve with the intervention, holding steady at around 17 percent.

“Our results suggest that the beauty shop is a potentially excellent educational setting for stroke and other health issues for black women and should be used in future studies,” the researchers conclude.

Overall, 78 percent of women were younger than 60 years old and 69 percent had some level of college education. Forty-one percent of the women had high blood pressure and 12 percent had diabetes - two risk factors for stroke.

SOURCE: Stroke, August 2008.