Community Conversations: Sister to Sister
Two observations inspired a women’s health initiative:
Get the Facts: Health Literacy in Hair Salons
- A long-standing complex, even mistrustful, history between the Black and medical science communities.
- Profound conversations occur daily at hair salons and barbershops in the Black community.
Over the past 20 years, Dita Obler has engaged in challenging discussions at her local hair salon. As a genetic counselor with experience navigating the maze of medical systems in Metro Boston, she found herself informally sharing medical strategies and guidance with other salon patrons who raised important questions and concerns. The depth and frequency of conversations exposed both the critical gap in access, as well as a communal desire for more accessible resources and opportunities to explore health challenges in a safe space.
This led to the creation of Community Conversations: Sister to Sister (CC). Given the culture of conversation already active within the salon, Dita along with her fellow co-founders, Erinn Pearson (salon owner, Simply Erinn’s Unisex Hair Salon), and mutual friend, Shelley Flaherty, asked themselves, “Why not examine the barriers to improved health and wellbeing while providing accurate and up-to-date
information in a place where folks already felt comfortable?”
Since 2009, CC has been bringing together Black women living and/or working in the Cambridge community with rotating multidisciplinary teams of Black women health professionals for facilitated conversation on common ground. Thanks to the generosity of CHNA 17, CC used a 2014-2015 Capacity Building Grant
to help develop and pilot a robust Program Evaluation process (IRB approved mixed methods research) and a 2015-2016 Adult Mental Health and Wellbeing Grant
to support monthly programming that reduces the personal, social and systemic barriers to quality care.
Today, our health community includes over 550 healthcare consumers, providers, and partners! In our gatherings we cover a variety of community-curated topics that include physical, behavioral and mental health, cognitive well-being, family and community health, and social support and networks. We look forward to expanding our reach and capacity to support more women of color and foster dialogue about health in Cambridge.