An Ethnography of African American and Sierra Leonean Hair Salon Patrons and Their Perceived Health Concerns
The current state of health research in the United States has largely categorized U.S. born and foreign-born individuals of "Black or of African descent" into very broad ethnic groups such as Black American or African American. However, these broad groupings have discounted and overlooked the variation of cultures found among Black populations. An aspect of relevance is that cultural beliefs and patterns may influence the perceptions and health concerns of Black populations. Understanding the perceived health concerns and the influence of culture on those health concerns can assist in the development of gender-specific and culturally appropriate nursing care for Black women. The aim of this six-month exploratory, qualitative study was to identify and explore the perceived health concerns of African American and Sierra Leonean women using focused ethnography as the methodology and the techniques of participant observation. Furthermore, this study sought to identify cultural components among thechosen groups that may affect their perceived health concerns. This study also explored the cultures of the Black hair salons, a context where health information is exchanged among Black women. Seventeen key informants, ten African American women andseven Sierra Leonean women were interviewed using a semi-structured format. The following five domains were developed for each group: a) culture (African American or Sierra Leonean), b) spirituality,c) roles/responsibilities, d) health, and e) health concerns.Based on the findings, the following conclusions were drawn: The salon culture facilitates an environment of closeness and trust among the patrons, stylists, and salon owners. Women of both groups feel comfortable when discussing general and personalinformation in the salons. Therefore, information related to health and health concerns are easily discussed in the salons. Data related to the cultures of the two groups revealed the importance of family, traditions, celebrations, and foods. The key informants revealed health concerns related to conditions affecting themselves, family members, and close friends. The following health conditions were major concerns for both groups of women: 1) obesity/weight gain, 2) weight-related health conditions (diabetes and hypertension), 3) stress, and 4) cancer.
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