About this Research Topic
Health status is largely determined by social, economic, environmental and political factors. Globally, prevailing life situations are known to shape individuals’ lives, influencing their health behaviours and wellbeing. Whilst Caribbean populations are diverse in terms of geography, colonial histories and post-colonial experiences; similar health concerns have emerged across the diaspora. For example, high prevalence of diabetes, hypertension and HIV/AIDS are reported both among migrant and Caribbean-dwelling women. The picture in relation to mental health and illness is less clear, indicating lack of evidence. Caribbean feminist scholars have developed methodologies that facilitate specific focus on the intersections between gender, class, family, work and health.
However, to date, the intricate connections between Caribbean women’s health, wellbeing, and the wider determinants of health have received relatively little attention. Consequently, we believe that a critical analysis of the research literature and strengthening the evidence on Caribbean women’s health and wellbeing is required.
In this Research Topic, we shall bring together an interdisciplinary group of scholars to examine the interconnected ways in which gender, ‘race’, ethnicity and class impact the health of Black women across the Caribbean Diaspora. Our purpose is to inform public health theory, research, policy and practice. We aim to stimulate debate and advance knowledge by bringing together a series of papers on different aspects of Caribbean women’s health that address health disparities in the context of racism, sexism, and other forms of oppression. Drawing on intersectionality theory, we seek to illuminate factors that both positively and negatively influence the health and wellbeing of Caribbean women in the UK, Caribbean, and North, South and Central America. To illustrate, we outline here the case in relation to women of Caribbean living the UK.
Caribbean women’s health and wellbeing: UK context
There is a growing body of evidence on the health beliefs, behaviours, experiences and outcomes of minority ethnic communities in the UK. However, women of Caribbean origin, including those of mixed/multiple heritage, are largely absent from this literature.
This is surprising given numerous reports over several decades highlighting Caribbean people’s inferior health in comparison to their White British counterparts, especially in relation to conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, strokes and serious mental illnesses.
Analysis of mortality rates in England and Wales between the years 1979-1983 indicated that death rates from strokes were 110% higher in Black Caribbean women compared with White British women. Recent research has also highlighted that Black Caribbean women with cancer have a significantly worse survival rate than their white counterparts. In mental health, there remains a lack of information on Caribbean women. In part, this is because research has predominantly focused on serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and other psychoses among Caribbean men. Little attention has been paid either to the aetiology, course of illness and effective interventions for Caribbean women or indeed coping and resilience strategies that preserve their mental health in the face of adversity. The sexual and reproductive health of Caribbean women are particular areas of concern because of higher rates of teenage pregnancy and associated risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) compared with the general population. Consequently, there is an urgent need to address the physical and mental health and wellbeing of Black women as the burden of living with chronic illness coupled with the stress of caring for others is likely to increase over the coming decades.
Keywords: Intersectionality, health, gender, ’race’, class
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