January 30, 2013 - In Philadelphia, Bringing Health Education to Beauty Salons
Last year, the Philadelphia Inquirer featured Schweitzer Fellow Kenji Taylor
’s work to bring hypertension screenings to West Philadelphia’s African-American barbershops.
Now, Schweitzer Fellow
Anjelica Sanders is implementing a community-based health education
effort in the same vein as Taylor’s: she’s bringing health education to
beauty salons in low-income Philadelphia neighborhoods, with the goal of
promoting conversations—and action—about healthy living.
“Raised in a family of hairdressers, I am extremely familiar with the salon environment,” says Sanders, one of this year’s Schweitzer Fellows and a student in St. Joseph’s University Graduate Health Education Program. “I
saw an opportunity to involve African-American women in conversation
about health and fitness in an environment where they were comfortable
and engaged in great amounts of dialogue.”
ASF: Why did you decide to develop your particular project?
AS: During my undergraduate career, I learned about our
society’s obesity epidemic. In many cases, complications from
obesity—including diabetes, hypertension, heart attack, and stroke—can
be prevented, managed, and even reversed through lifestyle changes.
But you cannot choose an option that you do not know exists. As an
African-American from urban Philadelphia, with a grandmother who suffers
from preventable, manageable, reversible type II Diabetes Mellitus, I
wanted to make it my goal to educate and enlighten people on leading
healthy lifestyles so they might eventually make the choice to do so.
I had already begun thinking of many creative approaches to health
education in urban communities—specifically low-income, low
educational/literacy level ones. When I had the opportunity to apply to
become an Albert Schweitzer Fellow in Greater Philadelphia, I jumped right in.
For my Schweitzer project, I came up with Black Women BIO: Beauty Inside & Out (BWBIO) in partnership with the Philadelphia Black Women’s Health Alliance.
Built around the natural conversations that take place among women in
beauty salons, BWBIO provides opportunities for these women to talk
about—and learn about—healthy living.
By talking about health in the context of a beauty routine that women
are already invested in, we can connect women with health resources and
promote health and beauty from the inside out. What’s on the outside
doesn’t matter, and won’t last, if you are not taking care of what is
going on in the inside. I hope that my project sparks salon
conversations about healthy living: Who’s working out and eating better?
Who’s living longer and has noticed an increased quality of life?
ASF: What do you hope will be the lasting impact of your project on the community it serves?
AS: I hope that my project will not only educate
people, but also empower them. I hope it will build awareness of the
health disparities that face the African-American community, and make
people want to take action.
It is common knowledge that members of low-socioeconomic communities
have less available resources to live healthy lifestyles—but do these
people know what options they do have? Do they know that they
can get enjoyable, meaningful workouts right in their homes—and that
even though it costs more to buy healthy foods, it is ultimately more
cost-effective to do so? I hope the women who participate in my program
share what they learned on all levels and apply much of the information
in their daily lives.
During the end of my Fellowship year, to sustain health inside the
beauty salon, I plan to go on a “Healthalize the Salon” campaign
throughout Philadelphia that provides the opportunity for salon owners
and individual stylists to create a health station within their salon.
The stations will offer accessible, easy-to-read resources on healthy
lifestyles so that when conversation about health and fitness arises,
the stylist can say, “Oh, go over to our health station; there’s a
section about getting started on a fitness plan,” or “Go over to our
health station; there’s a section that lists free health clinics in the
ASF: What do you think is the most pressing health-related issue of our time, and how do you think it should be addressed?
AS: I believe that obesity is the most pressing
health-related issue of our time, especially in regards to the
relationship it has with so many other diseases and conditions such as
type II Diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart attack,
osteoarthritis, and stress. I believe the issue should be examined and
addressed from all angles: physical, psychological, and sociological. I
think health professionals and policy makers should lead by example and
show how good healthy living can be!
ASF: What has been the most surprising element of your experience as a Schweitzer Fellow so far?
AS: Honestly, the most surprising element of my
experience as a Schweitzer Fellow has been my repeated encounters with
people who are committed to service. I have never been surrounded by so
many people who have an interest in the greater good, for more than
themselves and their loved ones.
In the five months that I have been a Fellow, I have been delighted
to come across not only individuals who want to do something about the
many issues faced in our society, but the many organizations that are
actually already out there fighting for something or helping those in
To know that there are others who care about health disparities makes
me feel like there is hope, especially if we can be united through
opportunities such as The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship.
ASF: What does being a Schweitzer Fellow (and ultimately a Schweitzer Fellow for Life) mean to you?
AS: Being a Schweitzer Fellow means being a part of a
group of people who care. It means that I am not alone in identifying
and wanting to address disparities. Ultimately, I am not alone in taking
action. Becoming a Fellow for Life just expands the experience. I will
be a part of an extremely large group of people with international
impact. I look forward to being able to connect with community
service-minded professionals nationally and internationally and building
meaningful relationships that will continue to impact the greater good.
to learn more about the Greater Philadelphia Schweitzer Fellows Program
and our work to develop leaders, create change, and improve health in
vulnerable communities. We are supported entirely by charitable donations and grants.