Oklahoma program targets tobacco use in black population
Guiding Right Inc. is working with ministers and businesses to discourage tobacco use among black Oklahomans.
Ministers in some of Oklahoma's black churches are spreading a new message: Tobacco is dangerous. Don't use it.
That's according to Guiding Right Inc., an Oklahoma City-based agency that seeks to eliminate health disparities in at-risk populations. The organization is partnering with black churches, hair salons and barber shops to discourage tobacco use.
We're fighting an uphill battle because tobacco companies spend millions of dollars a day with their lobbyists and advertising. Our funding is only $100,000 a year for five years.”
“Black churches have historically been kind of a stable point in the African-American community,” said Theodore Noel, the agency's executive director. “The black church has always been the genesis and the birthplace where movements start.
“Black hair establishments are instrumental, as well. A lot of African-American men spend their time at barber shops, even if they're not getting their hair cut. They just go there to talk and hang out. It's similar for women's hair establishments.”
One of Guiding Right's programs, M-POWER (Moving — Parity Onward With Every Resource), has a five-year renewable contract with the state Health Department to reduce tobacco abuse in the state's black population. The program focuses particularly on Oklahoma, Tulsa, Carter and Comanche counties.
Noel is seeking help from the pulpit and from black businesses. Several churches, including St. John Missionary Baptist, have banned tobacco use. So have several hair-related businesses and an insurance agency.
Tobacco use isn't common at churches, Noel said, but some congregation members smoke outside church doors or use chewing tobacco.
“Once the doors open you can kind of smell the smoke from the outside,” he said.
As respected members of their communities, black ministers and their wives effectively can discourage tobacco use, he said. Congregants may listen to warnings about health consequences and the dangers of secondhand smoke if they come from the clergy.
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