Saturday, February 7, 2015

Whose health advice do you take seriously?

Recently I was talking to a friend about her Mom, who is almost 80, smokes, rarely sees a doctor and horrors of horrors, according to her daughter, she takes baby aspirin and fish oil daily because her manicurist recommended it. “Can you believe where she’s getting her health information from?”

There would have been a time that I would have joined in the discussion, agreeing with my friend, but over the years, I’ve learned there are a lot of “voices in the choir” when it comes to health advice.

In general, people see their hairdressers, barber, manicurist, massage therapist etc. more frequently than their doctor. Not only do these service providers make them look and feel good, they will spend hours with their client versus the 15 minutes that’s available from many medical providers.

In the case of hairdressers, there is research that shows that close to 70% of regular beauty salon attendees, go for the opportunity to discuss their problems. In fact, 84% of them would trust their hairdresser’s advice over a therapist. Even the Sasson ABC guide reflects this by noting that working in a salon environment requires 10% ability and 90% psychology.

For many years now, barbers have been trained to take blood pressures as a way to deal with the high levels of hypertension among black men. There are a variety of programs underway to test if this also a good way to do outreach for diabetes and other health issues. 

Librarians are another trusted source of information, since many people go to the library to use computers as well as for books and movies. It’s not uncommon for librarians to know about someone’s diagnosis before their family or friends..

The medical community is aware how much people trust and rely on hair care and other service professionals and so are helping to educate them. For several years, I ran a program for librarians helping them set up local health information websites and re configure their health materials section. While many of the librarians were excellent, there were some with very strange and even dangerous ideas that should not be shared with patrons.

There are lots of examples where advice from family, friends or hairdresser has directed someone to life saving help. It’s also true that such advice taken does nothing, or at worse is very harmful. All advice is not equal. Without belaboring the point, “cut to the chase” and consider these three things before taking someone’s advice seriously:

• Are they trying to sell you something?

• Are they telling you there is a cure when research and your medical provider have indicated that there isn’t? Try not to let your fear of your medical condition cloud your judgement. 

• If it “Sounds to Good to be True” it probably is.

To help you evaluate "advice" check out Scams, Frauds and Quacks.

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