February 2, 2021
Crucial Conversations: COVID Vaccine Myths, Health Disparities, and More

We recently held our inaugural Live Chair Health “Crucial Conversations” webinar. The LCH founder, Andrew Suggs, moderated a panel of special guests including Dr. Stephen Noble, Lead Medical Advisor for Live Chair Health, Dr. Alexea Gaffney, a primary care physician and certified infectious disease specialist, Kenny Duncan, a celebrity barber and instructor, and Paul Jones, a barber, speaker, and entrepreneur. 

Primary topics that were discussed include:
  • How barbers can impact the health of their clients
  • How the doctor/patient relationship can improve for people of color
  • Health disparities found among African Americans
  • Healthy habits for the new year
  • Myths and truths of the COVID vaccine 

How can hair professionals play a role in making their clients look AND feel good?

Suggs kicked off the conversation by giving attendees an overview of what Live Chair Health is all about. We exist to address health issues among people of color, starting with African Americans, in the places they frequent most: barbershops and hair salons. When Suggs’ father passed away last year from a preventable heart disease, he knew it was time to get serious about addressing these issues in communities that are largely overrepresented in all chronic disease categories.  

Kenny Duncan advised barbers to “talk about more than just hair” with their clients. Barbers have become known as “the glue guys” that serve as the connection point between various members of the community. They have the ability to bridge the gap between their clients and thought leaders, those with resources and information to share. 

“Our greatest asset is trust.”

Jones agreed, commenting that you really never know what walk of life someone may be in until you get them in the chair and get to know them. Once he forms relationships with his clients, he loves to connect them with one another. His team has even developed weekly topical conversations with repeat clients, such as having COVID discussions when doctors come.

How can the patient/physician relationship improve?

It’s easy to leave a doctor’s appointment feeling defeated, and Suggs wants to ensure that underserved groups do not give up on the healthcare system altogether, but rather take full advantage of the resources available to them. This all points back to the importance of a strong relationship between a patient and the doctor. 

Dr. Alexea shared two of her top recommendations.

  1. Form a Connection: The more you know your patient and what’s important to them, the more relevant recommendations you can make. The more relevant your recommendations, the more likely they are to put them into practice.
  2. Ask the Hard Questions: Giving applicable examples of the potential outcomes, like lung cancer from smoking or a heart attack from obesity, can finally put things into perspective for patients. “Do you have life insurance? Because you may need it soon.”

Dr. Noble also shared his advice, clarifying that “this is a two-way street” between both the patient AND the doctor.

  1. Proactivity: Patients cannot sit back silently, unaware of their conditions; they must take their health into their own hands. 
  2. Preparation: Preparing for a doctor’s appointment is key to success. Check out this blog post to learn more. 
  3. Patience: Providers must be present in the moment, devoting their full attention to the patient at hand, rather than allowing other distractions to take away from the time they have. 

Why do so many health disparities exist among African Americans?

From culture to “the system” to an overall lack of knowledge, we hear many reasons for why African Americans are overrepresented in most chronic disease categories, but which ones are true? Here are the main answers provided by our panelists:

  • Accountability: Duncan is passionate about African Americans seeking out information and taking responsibility for what they are actually able to do. In the past, there has been a lack of accountability.
  • Expectations: He also thinks that waiting for someone else to do what you need is incredibly limiting. We cannot place our expectations on others, especially for our health.
  • Access to Healthy Foods: Many African Americans live in food desserts where there is a noticeable lack of healthy, nutritious food. Dr. Alexea was surrounded by fast food chains growing up in Brooklyn and is now thankful to live closer to more healthy options.
  • Race-Related Stress: With all of the race-related turmoil that has taken place in our country, especially over the past year, African Americans are more likely to feel stressed or anxious, which can cause higher blood pressure.
  • Cultural Norms: Dr. Alexea pointed out that something as seemingly small as food preparation preferences can actually make a big difference in overall health. Another example she gave was the pressure on women to be a certain body size, which is oftentimes not a healthy size at all.
  • Poor Air Quality: Poor air quality in certain inner city locations is part of what caused African Americans to die at such a high rate from COVID-19. 

Dr. Alexea is passionate about paving a new path for African Americans to walk down. “We have to release certain parts of our history and culture and adapt to a new, healthier way of being.”

What are some recommended healthy habits for the new year? How can we actually stick to those resolutions?

Each of the panelists shared some of their new year’s resolutions, in addition to some tips for actually keeping them up.

Paul Jones: It’s Jones’ goal to meal prep each week so that he’s not tempted to go out and grab something quick to eat, which almost always ends up being unhealthy fast food. He also wants to get in daily workouts to lower his stress levels.

Dr. Alexea: She recommends considering a plant-based diet. Rather than being fully vegetarian or vegan, eating more fruits and vegetables and less meat and carbs can have a huge impact on someone’s overall health. Getting 30 minutes of brisk activity per day, or combining for a weekend warrior, is also something she recommends to all of her patients. 

Kenny Duncan: Duncan sees the importance of prioritizing physical, mental, and spiritual health altogether. He’s very focused on “eating with intention” and has even joined an exercise accountability group. He realizes the importance of support and community in accomplishing your goals.

Dr. Noble: Dr. Noble echoed the importance of having accountability partners. He also recommends to write down a physical plan of your goals so that your actions are directed. Lastly, he encouraged viewers that we can’t be too hard on ourselves. We’ll all make mistakes and need “cheat days” every now and then. Moderation is always key.

Is the COVID vaccine safe? Should we get it?

For the grand finale of this webinar, Suggs questioned the two medical professionals on their opinions of the COVID vaccine. Dr. Alexea and Dr. Noble had slightly different perspectives from one another, but both agreed that COVID is a deadly disease that should be taken seriously.

Dr. Alexea is exposed to COVID daily and has taken care of thousands of patients since the outbreak of the virus. She is located in Long Island, which is considered to be an epicenter of cases. As an infectious disease specialist, she’s very passionate about educating others on the life-saving abilities of vaccines. She did receive the vaccine herself and recommends that her clients do the research and make the right decision for themselves. (But she is also biased towards vaccines.)

Dr. Noble has not received the vaccine yet and would prefer to wait until there is at least a year’s worth of data available to make an informed decision off of. He does believe that those who are highly susceptible to COVID should receive the vaccine if they’re able. 

COVID + COVID Vaccine Myths:
  • "A microchip is implanted in the vaccine." Dr. Alexea reminded viewers that we are all already tracked daily… by our cellphones. “These devices know what we want and need before we even do.” There’s no need for the government to put another tracking device inside us.
  • "There’s a possibility of infertility in women who receive the vaccine." This has not been proven in any trials and was just a rumor made up by an off-hand comment. In fact, women who are pregnant are recommended to receive the vaccine if they’re able. 
  • "Certain blood types are immune to COVID." Jones questioned whether or not his O+ blood type made him immune to Coronavirus. Doctors confirmed that while there may be a decrease in severity of cases, there are no blood types that are fully protected. “COVID is the bully on the block. It doesn’t care who you are.”
  • "COVID deaths are all about the hospitals receiving more money." Duncan was curious about the financial side behind COVID cases, wondering if hospitals were incentivized to report deaths for financial gain. Dr. Noble clarified that COVID patients do require significantly more care and resources, thus, the hospital bill will naturally be higher. 

Suggs closed out the webinar by reflecting on black history and the progress being made in our country. "While everyone dies at some point, it’s always unfortunate to see a life cut short by a preventable disease." Our goal at Live Chair Health is to help others live out their full potential through good habits, accountability, and uplifting community. Check out our brand new app if you want to learn more and join us on the journey!