Understanding the Impact of Stress on Black Women’s Health: A Call for Equity
Black women face an array of health-related challenges that are rooted in complex and intertwined societal issues. These challenges, exacerbated by stress, significantly impact the health and well-being of this population. The lived experiences of Black women highlight the significant stress they face in their lives, necessitating further understanding and action to address the health inequities they face.
Perception of Strength and Its Impact on Health
Jeannette Wade, an associate professor in UNC Greensboro’s Department of Public Health Education, has been working on understanding Black women’s perspectives on health care. Her research found that the societal pressure to embody the ‘strong Black woman’ persona can lead to elevated stress levels and consequent health issues. Interestingly, during the pandemic, young Black women felt decreased pressure to embody this persona, allowing them to prioritize self-care and emotional well-being. Wade’s research has the potential to inform health programs tailored specifically for young Black women, addressing unique challenges they face in health communication.
Unpacking the Role of Racism in Health Inequities
Racism is a fundamental cause of health disparities among Black women. A study from the Health and Retirement Study emphasizes the need to understand and address barriers to achieving health equity. It uses racialized social systems theory to conceptualize racism as the underlying cause of racial differences in resource distribution, risk exposure, and health outcomes. The study pushes for a comprehensive understanding of the conditional relationships among socioeconomic status, stressors, and health to address racial health inequities effectively.
Stress and Health: The Vascular Impact
Tené T. Lewis, a professor of epidemiology and an active health researcher, is examining the impact of stress on Black women’s health, particularly in relation to vascular aging and early markers of vascular disease. Her research also underlines the need for medical tools that are inclusive of larger bodies to accurately measure blood pressure in Black women. The discussion around her work highlighted public health inequities, including breast cancer prevalence and mortality, maternal mortality, uterine fibroids, and menopause-related risk factors.
Addressing Health Disparities through Research and Intervention
With the goal of improving minority health and reducing health disparities, researchers like Michelle Redmond are studying the impact of stress on African American women’s health, including its effect on birth outcomes. The University of Kansas Medical Center is leading a study to address obesity and related health risks in rural areas while implementing evidence-based practices in clinical care for rural minority and underserved populations. Furthermore, initiatives like the Rural Maternal Health Symposium and the Kansas Birth Equity Network are making strides in addressing factors impacting care for expectant and new mothers in rural areas.
In conclusion, addressing the impact of stress on the health of Black women requires a multifaceted approach that includes understanding the intersectionality of racism, socioeconomic status, and gender. By adopting a comprehensive approach, we can work towards achieving health equity for Black women and improving overall public health outcomes.