Health in Black Hair Salons

By Lu, Stacy | The Crisis, Fall 2014 | Go to article overview

Health in Black Hair Salons


Lu, Stacy, The Crisis


Dr. Chileshe NkondePrice talks about heart disease in Black beauty salons.

An African American woman with heart disease is two times more likely to die from if than a white woman of the same age. Why?

That's the question Dr. Chileshe Nkonde-Price, director of the Penn Women's Cardiovascular Health Program in Philadelphia, Pa., set out to research. Not by studying charts or visiting hospitals - as she says, "One look at my white coat and people tell me what they think I want to hear" - but by talking to women in hair salons in predominantly African American neighborhoods around Philadelphia.

Health research in a hair salon?

Nkonde-Price, who grew up in Zambia, knew the narrative upsides firsthand.

"Hair salons are our natural habitat. Back home, women spend hours there. Older women come in just to exchange stories," says Nkonde-Price.

"Coming to America, what was unchanged was the experience of having my hair done."

According fo social literature, styling is the last thing that goes on in a salon, Nkonde-Price says. It's historically a seat of political action, a place where women can gather to share secrets and solve problems. Plus, a salon visit can take as long as four hours, so there's plenty of talking time.

Nkonde-Price found her mission while visifing a 38year-old Black woman in a crifical care unif recovering from a heart attack.

"She said, 'Is it contagious because my neighbor had one.' She had no idea she was high risk," Nkonde-Price says. …

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