Leaders in Women’s Health – The Healthy Nail Salon Network

Original artwork by Bjoern Arthurs for the National Network on Environments and Women's Health

This new feature of OWHN Online Leadership Network is intended to profile people and/or projects leading change in women’s health in Ontario. The leaders highlighted here will share brief highlights of their work, achievements and challenges, visions for women’s health and recommended resources, among other things in response to our brief questionnaire.

Thank you to Cate Ahrens of the Queen West Community Health Centre and Anne Rochon Ford, project lead, for providing answers to the questionnaire on behalf of The Healthy Nail Salon Network.

The Healthy Nail Salon Network

Queen West Community Health Centre, National Network on Environments and Women’s Health (coordinators); and many others.

1. What women’s health issue do you work in? Can you tell us a little about your greatest successes and challenges?

The Healthy Nail Salon Network is a collaboration between many agencies, including the National Network on Environments and Women’s Health (NNEWH), Queen West Community Health Centre and the Centre for Research Expertise in Occupational Disease (CREOD).* We have successfully built a network of health care providers, academics, nail salon technicians, and community-based agencies with a shared interest in improving occupational health and safety in Ontario nail salons. We strategize about what changes need to take place at each level of government to enable safer work environments, what research gaps exists, and what front-line work needs to be done.

A high proportion of nail technicians in Toronto are female immigrants from China and Vietnam. They work in a profession where throughout the workday they are regularly exposed to chemicals known to cause cancer, respiratory illnesses and reproductive problems and issues such as gender, language, lack of income, past trauma, and immigration status create increased vulnerabilities for this group of workers.   

This project engages nail salon owners, nail technicians and partner agencies to understand the health impacts of salon work, and strategies to reduce these health risks.

To read more about the Healthy Nail Salon Network, visit our: Healthy Nail Salon Network Facebook page.

2. Why are you passionate about women’s health?

There continue to be systemic health inequities, many of which go unrecognized, unregulated, and ignored.  These inequities have the greatest impact on society’s most vulnerable members. Universal health care needs to benefit everyone, and particular attention needs to be paid to the places and people where this care is falling short.  

Women working in nail salons are one such population and the issues facing these women are multi-layered.

3. What is your vision for women’s health equity in Ontario?

The health of Ontario’s populations relies on all of us living in healthy and safe environments, yet we don’t all have the same access to resources, research, or the ability or freedom to advocate for our rights.

The Healthy Nail Salon Network works to better understand the health risks that nail salon workers are exposed to, and educate and advocate for safer conditions. We want women working in nail salons to have the conditions to thrive in their profession and feel safe at work: access to the right information, safer products, and supportive regulation. These measures will also help the people who enjoy services in nail salons.

4. What resources, tools or research would you like to share with us?

* Other agencies participating in the Network are: Toronto Public Health, St. Michael’s Hospital/ University of Toronto, Chinese Interagency Network, Working Women’s Community Centre, Vietnamese Association of Toronto, South Riverdale Community Health Centre, Ontario Lung Association, Occupational Health Clinic for Ontario Workers, Canadian Environmental Law Association, Toronto Environmental Alliance, Workers’ Action Centre