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In Focus: Disparities and distrust in BIPOC health care

Minnesota consistently lands on lists of states with the best health care. But if you’re Indigenous or a person of color, you’re not included in the high marks the state receives in metrics like health care access or public health outcomes.

Racial disparities persist in everything from breast cancer, infant mortality and heart disease rates to incidences of injury and violence. And this year, COVID-19 and George Floyd’s killing sowed additional doubt within BIPOC communities that existing systems — and the people who operate in them — are equipped and committed to closing the gaps in care and health outcomes.

Public health and health system leaders have acknowledged 2020’s stark reminder: Racism and Minnesota’s health care disparity problem remain unsolved. Yet community-based, culturally competent care, telemedicine and other solutions are becoming more common in the state. And those calling for change include both future doctors marching on campuses and the CEOs of some of the state’s largest health care organizations. 

MPR News host Angela Davis moderated our latest In Focus event, a conversation with advocates and health care providers working to address racial disparities in health care.


● Cindy N. Kaigama is the director of innovation and learning for Minnesota Community Care, an organization founded in 1972 as West Side Community Health Services. She has more than 20 years of experience as an educator, health and human services leader and social entrepreneur. With several locations in the Twin Cities, Minnesota Community Care offers a range of health care services and is a federally qualified health center.

● Antony Stately serves as chief executive officer for the Native American Community Clinic, a federally qualified health care center in south Minneapolis that provides primary dental and behavioral health care and substance abuse services to the Twin Cities Native American community. He is a clinical psychologist, an enrolled Oneida member and a descendant of White Earth and Red Lake Ojibwe.

● Stella Whitney-West serves as chief executive officer of NorthPoint Health & Wellness Center, a federally qualified health center serving north Minneapolis and Hennepin County. She has led NorthPoint for more than a decade and has extensive experience in governance and policy. NorthPoint has a 50-year history and is governed by a community board of directors comprised of NorthPoint patients and people who live or work in the community.

● Naomi Windham is a nurse practitioner with Hennepin County Health Care for the Homeless. She provides medical care at clinics within the shelter system and as a medical provider for the Hennepin County COVID isolation hotels. Her interests include women’s health, homelessness, racial disparities in health care and diabetes management.

MPR News’ In Focus is a series of convenings we are committed to leading on Minnesota’s persistent racial disparities. Through conversations with community leaders that are shaped by our curious, engaged audience, MPR News hopes to encourage new connections and relationships that will help Minnesota communities make progress toward equity and inclusion.

If you have thoughts or questions about the event or the topic of BIPOC health care, check out the MPR News Ground Level project page for different ways to share your experience.

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