In honor of Black History Month, we caught up with Assistant Professors Lakeshia Cousin, PhD, APRN, AGPCNP-BC, and Staja “Star” Booker, PhD, RN, to get an inside look at their exciting research on Black health equity. They will present the symposium, “Strong Black Woman and Black Masculinity Frameworks to Advance Health Equity through Nursing Research,” at the 2022 Southern Nursing Research Conference in New Orleans this week (Friday, Feb. 25 at 10:30am).
Led by Booker, this symposium will share evidence of how the Black health experience is grounded in cultural frameworks and discuss how biological, sociological and psychological mechanisms can influence health outcomes. Cousin will also deliver a presentation titled “’You got to be the Strong Person’: Embodying the Strong Black Woman while Living with Chronic Pain.” The presentation is a qualitative analysis of one of Booker’s studies on the topic and centers around a phenomenon and theory called the “Superwoman Schema,” also known as the “Strong Black Woman” role.
Both Booker and Cousin answered a few questions about their research:
Q: What is the “Superwoman Schema?”
Booker: The “Superwoman Schema” is a theory that there is a cultural norm to promote strength by prioritizing care for others over care for oneself. For Black women, the “Superwoman Schema” cultural phenomenon captures the dynamics of physical and emotional health in our age, race and gender-conscious society. It also explores how older Black women display strength while living with chronic osteoarthritis pain.
Recently, we expanded our investigation on the “Strong Black Woman” framework to uncover key cultural characteristics integral to understanding pain in this population. We developed this research into a full manuscript that was accepted into the journal “Advances in Nursing Science” titled “’Be Strong My Sista’: Sentiments of Strength from Black Women with Chronic Pain Living in the Deep South.”
Q: Why is this work important?
Cousin: This work is important because many of the health disparities experienced by Black women —including cardiovascular disease, untreated physiological conditions and chronic pain — may be related to how these women cope with stress. Chronic race-related stressors often lead to poorer health outcomes. Cultural behaviors and attitudes are key factors that influence both why and how Black individuals manage chronic conditions. Identifying these experiences may provide opportunities to promote behavior changes and tailor medical therapies.
Q: What impact do you hope your work will have?
Cousin: The “Strong Black Woman” framework can enhance future research in stress among Black women. I hope to test the existence of this phenomenon and expound on it by developing a psychosocial, protective intervention for Black breast cancer survivors at risk for metabolic disease, thereby reducing distress, enhancing well-being and promoting exercise readiness.
Booker: I plan to use inner strength as a cultural asset to empower Black communities to control their chronic pain. We hope this work will lead to innovative health solutions that transform lives rather than simply amplifying disparities and inequities. This is a prime time to bolster research that accepts the uniqueness of various cultures and embraces the resulting knowledge as scientific evidence.