Thursday, December 13, 2012

Using African American natural hair care to fight obesity

In a previous post, I applauded the natural hair style movement for African American women. I wrote:

In my adopted hometown, Washington, DC -- Mocha City if not Chocolate City anymore --  it is common to see fly sistas, of all hues, majestically embracing and sporting natural hair styles. These sisters feel liberated to enhance and accentuate their naturally good hair.They wear: locs, twists, fros, braids, buns, updos etc. read more

Beauty, aesthetic cosmetics and vanity aside, arguably, the greatest side-benefit of natural hair care is health related -- and I don't just mean healthy hair follicles: black women cite hair style concern as one of the top reason for abstaining from physical activity.

Anyone proficient in black womenism knows: when a sista gets a new do there are are a lot of hair dont's, i.e. no swimming and no sweating. With the current crisis level of obesity among women of color, hair style concern can be removed as an impediment to exercise..

"When we started to really look deeply at the obesity statistics -- which are terrible for America -- they are particularly frightening for the African-American women," Dr. Reed Tuckson, former Public Health Commissioner for the District of Columbia and executive vice president and chief of medical affairs at UnitedHealth Group, told The Huffington Post.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, four out of five African-American women are overweight or obese. In 2010, black women were 70 percent more likely to be obese than their white counterparts, HHS reported.
Tuckson points to both mounting research and personal experience in an effort to understand the reasons for this phenomenon. "We're finding that there are a significant number of people who are more concerned with how they look than whether they are healthy ... That's got to be addressed," he said, explaining how the "Hair Fitness" competition came about.
U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin agreed, calling on black women to focus on their health over their hair in an interview with The New York Times last year. "When you're starting to exercise, you look for reasons not to, and sometimes the hair is one of those reasons," Benjamin said.
Tuckson is quick to preface his position, however. "This is not a finger-pointing [effort] or a denigration of black women. It's a celebration and a love of black women that sort of says, 'Look, we've gotta help you overcome this challenge,'" he said.
To that end, he and a Bronner Bros. team, which included Dr. Benjamin, put beauticians to the test, challenging them to create attractive hairstyles that are conducive to exercise and don't pose a barrier to weight loss success, which may include time, cost and complexity.
The result, Tuckson says, isn't only aesthetic. "What happens is we're teaching the hairstylists about how to conduct exercise-friendly hairstyles, but also, what's really happening is, the hairstylists are being recruited as deputies into the fight for healthy African-American communities."
Benjamin, whose mother was a hairstylist, noted that enlisting the help of that professional community was a particularly successful strategy among blacks, citing studies that show black men and women are more likely to see a doctor and pay attention to their health when prodded by their barbers and hairdressers. source

1 comment:

  1. I agree with much of the article. But African American women are not born with the desire to straighten their hair. That's learned.

    How can we deal with the society pressures and norms that all but force Black women to focus on the least natural ways to keep their hair? Can you imagine if Michelle Obama went natural? Much of the nation would have a collective stroke all because she didn't use chemicals to approach the white standard for hair,

    We have to find ways for women to feel the power they have and remove the perverse stigmas on natural hair.