By leveraging safe and popular places like beauty salons, the Afghan Social Marketing Organization (ASMO) and SHOPS Plus hope to transform Kabul beauticians into community-level change agents trained to raise awareness, encourage open dialogue, and help women adopt positive health practices for themselves and their families. ASMO recruited 198 beauty salons located in middle- and lower middle-income neighborhoods in Kabul for a pilot intervention to test the model and gauge scalability.
SHOPS Plus conducted a baseline study among the participating salons to determine the knowledge, attitudes, and practices of their clients related to family planning and maternal and child health. The study found that for more than one in five beauty salon clients, the husband alone makes the health care decisions for his wife and children. The study also found that on average clients visit beauty salons every 10 days and spend up to two hours at the salon each visit. Additionally, 80 percent of clients surveyed reported that they are comfortable discussing their and their child’s health with a beautician. Beauticians have expressed enthusiasm towards the program and some have taken initiative to share the information with their own peers and social networks.
“I study part-time…and told my classmates about these [health topics],” noted one beautician, “It was very nice because even the boys were interested and asked questions.”
The baseline study also found specific opportunities to increase knowledge and shift misconceptions among women—particularly around diarrhea treatment and family planning. Over one-third of clients surveyed reported children having diarrhea in the last four weeks. While the majority sought treatment for their child’s diarrhea, only fifteen percent of caregivers who administered treatment gave their child the recommended treatment, oral rehydration solution (ORS) and zinc. Nearly half gave their child an antimicrobial, antibiotic, or anti-diarrheal—which is not recommended for uncomplicated cases of childhood diarrhea. Further, zinc and non-zinc users differed significantly in their knowledge and perception of the effectiveness of zinc and its protective abilities, indicating the need to promote zinc among the many caregivers who are not currently using it.
Of the survey respondents who did not use a modern family planning method, nearly three-fourths believed that pills could cause their body harm and almost half believed that their body will space births naturally. These results demonstrate opportunities for beauticians to discuss concerns around family planning methods and educate women on birth spacing.
SHOPS Plus and ASMO are now using the results of the baseline study to inform and adapt additional trainings and on-the-ground support for beauticians in the pilot. SHOPS Plus plans to conduct a randomized controlled trial to evaluate the pilot’s impact and assess potential for scalability and replicability of the innovative beauty parlor approach. Stay tuned for more results as the pilot progresses.