“BEAUTY is a Balancing Act” explores a new venue for health awareness and falls prevention

The Injury Prevention Research Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is recruiting beauty salons for a special opportunity—to participate in a randomized trial study to test the impact of different health messages, including information about falls prevention.

8/1/13 - Kathy Shepherd patricipates in the "Beauty is a Balancing Act" assesment on how to prevent falls, conducted by research assistant Phil Hanson at Hair Gallery salon on South Church Street in Burlington Thursday. Photo Scott Muthersbaugh.

Kathy Shepherd participates in the “Beauty is a Balancing Act” assessment on how to prevent falls, conducted by research assistant Phil Hanson at Hair Gallery salon on South Church Street in Burlington. Photo Scott Muthersbaugh.

According to the North Carolina Injury and Violence Prevention Branch of the North Carolina Division of Public Health, falls are the leading cause of injury among North Carolinians age 65 and older, and resulted in 17,861 hospitalizations and 820 deaths in 2013. Moreover, many people do not realize that falls are the leading cause of emergency room visits for people of nearly all ages. Preventing falls across the lifespan is critically important.

The “BEAUTY is a Balancing Act” randomized test was developed by a research team led by Dr. Laura Linnan, professor of health behavior and Health Promotion and Disease Prevention research fellow at UNC-Chapel Hill, and the BEAUTY and Barbershop Advisory Board, which has guided the planning and delivery of more than 10 health-related studies over the past 16 years.

The idea around the study is to test the effectiveness of delivering falls prevention messaging in a nontraditional environment – the beauty salon. The relationship a woman has with her hair stylist is unique. Hair stylists serve as confidantes for their clients, and a strong bond is created between the two that often lasts many years. Salons also provide a safe atmosphere for open and honest conversation, making them the perfect locations for discussions about health topics. This is the first study in the nation to focus on falls prevention awareness in the beauty salon environment.

DSC_0360BEAUTY seeks to remedy this largely preventable community health issue by identify individuals who are at high risk of falling, and referring them to evidence-based falls prevention programs in the community. In addition, BEAUTY will interject meaningful, potentially life-saving information into the salon environment through everyday exchanges between customers and licensed hair stylists. The goal of BEAUTY is to take steps to protect those who are at risk of falling, including seniors who at high risk of falling, caregivers of older adults and individuals of all ages who can benefit from this information.

The randomized trial study will recruit 22 beauty salons in North Carolina. Half of the salons will receive the falls prevention program (Healthy Balance) and the other half will receive a financial health program (Healthy Finances) over the six-month period of the study. The Healthy Finances program will help salon clients improve their personal finances. All participating salon owners will benefit from training about how to improve the financial health of their small businesses. Training topics will range from using social media to promote awareness and creating a business plan to information about arranging for new credit/business loans to expand a business.

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory has declared the first week of fall, September 21-26, Falls Prevention Awareness Week, perfect timing for the kickoff of this important trial.