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Sojourner Syndrome and Health Disparities in African American Women

Lekan, Deborah MSN, RNC

doi: 10.1097/ANS.0b013e3181bd994c

Despite improvements in many aspects of health, African American women experience early onset of disease and disability and increased mortality because of health disparities. African American women experience stress and health disadvantages because of the interaction and multiplicative effects of race, gender, class, and age. Sojourner Syndrome is an illustrative and symbolic representation that describes the multiple roles and social identities of African American women on the basis of historical referents and adaptive behaviors that fostered survival and resilience under oppressive circumstances. Adaptive behaviors also precipitated health risks due to chronic active coping. Weathering describes the cumulative health impact of persistent stress and chronic active coping that contributes to early health deterioration and increased morbidity, disability, and mortality in African American women. An emancipatory knowing nursing perspective provides a viewpoint from which to examine social injustices that create conditions for the excessive health burdens experienced by African American women and to frame nursing actions that create opportunities to promote health and eliminate health disparities.

Duke University School of Nursing, Durham, North Carolina.

Corresponding Author: Deborah Lekan, MSN, RNC, Duke University School of Nursing, Box 3322 DUMC, 311 Trent Dr, Durham, NC 27710 (

The author is grateful to Tracy Nichols, PhD, for introducing her to Sojourner Syndrome and intersectionality research.

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.