‘We must educate healthcare providers’ about Black women’s experience

‘We must educate healthcare providers’ about Black women’s experience


Written by Ana Sandoiu on July 31, 2020

Medical News Today has interviewed Prof. Cheryl Giscombé, an expert on stress-related health disparities among African Americans, about a source of pressure that many African-American women experience: the obligation to project an image of strength or that of fulfilling a ‘superwoman’ role.


Share on PinterestMany African American women find it hard to integrate self-care into their daily lives.

In 2010, Prof. Cheryl Giscombé, Ph.D., published a paper entitled Superwoman Schema: African American Women’s Views on Stress, Strength, and Health in the journal Qualitative Health Research. In it, she explained:

“Researchers have suggested that health disparities in African American women, including adverse birth outcomes, lupus, obesity, and untreated depression, can be explained by stress and coping. The Strong Black Woman/Superwoman role has been highlighted as a phenomenon influencing African American women’s experiences and reports of stress.” 

MNT reached out to Prof. Giscombé — who is the Melissa and Harry LeVine Family Professor of Quality of Life, Health Promotion and Wellness at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill — in an attempt to find out more about how this role affects Black women. 

We spoke to Prof. Giscombé — who is also a social and health psychologist and a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner — about her past and current research, and how she developed the superwoman schema.

We also talked about how the superwoman role affects the mental (and physical) health of African American women, whether there are any benefits to the role, and what are some interventions that could help offset its adverse effects — both on an individual and a societal level.

We have lightly edited the interview for clarity. 

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