From 'Barbershop' (Courtesy: MGM).

In certain barbershops around the country, black men are getting targeted messages of health along with their haircuts. I’ve been reading about these developments for a couple of years now, but haven’t heard of a similar trend among black women and beauty salons.

The men are getting high blood pressure tests and health screenings along with a little off the sides, and it’s working. This has been going on in fits and starts for awhile, but now is part of a large study of African-American men and hypertension by researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. This is a good thing, since black men get taken out by high blood pressure more than any other group.

You can see the full report in the online edition of the Archives of Internal Medicine. It will also be in February’s print edition.

How about something similar for obesity and black women? Call it, “Beauty and the ’Besity.” OK, that was pretty bad, but you know what I mean.

If you haven’t memorized them by now, here are the stats again: four out of five black women are overweight, and most of us overweight ladies are obese. Now, my hair is natural (Sisterlocks) so I haven’t done the beauty-shop thing in forever, but I clearly recall being held hostage by hot-comb wielding, finger-waving beauticians for hours on Saturday mornings. Talk about a captive audience: There’s no escape if you’re sitting there with a wet head and big, plastic cape fastened around your neck.


They’re such social places, too. What a great place to have discussions about adopting healthier eating habits and the best places to walk nearby. Think about how cool it would be to pick up new recipes or to sample stuff like tofu, or one of the new yogurts, or just chat about personal challenges to getting the weight off.

And remember all our discussions about black women not exercising because they don’t want to mess up their hair? What better place to pick up a full-color booklet on the many different options for our varied hair textures and lengths.

Even if only one woman is guided off the path of ill health, skyrocketing medical bills and a disabling, depressing future, I’d say it’s worth it.


I would say I missed those old salon days, but I’d be lying. I hated those places. I can’t recall an instance where the ladies weren’t really nice; you just have to remember I have the patience of a gnat. I was happiest when I found small, independent hairdressers who rarely left anyone waiting more than 15 minutes. My mother, on the other hand, seems to cherish her weekly hair and nail visits. She’ll be 79 on Friday, and lately has been attending an increasing number of funerals.

Her friends are dying mostly from heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Each one of those is preventable, and you know it.

So why doesn’t that make me want to just jump out of bed and skip happily to the gym each day? I’d just love to see some researchers tackle that, LOL.


I knew women wanted to be beautiful, but I didn't know the lengths they would go to, the time they would spend — and not complain about it.  ~  Chris Rock

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Leslie J. Ansley is an award-winning journalist and entrepreneur who blogs daily for TheRoot. She lives in Raleigh, NC.