New center to reframe how we research health disparities

A doctor checks on a boy at a clinic.
Dr. Janice Bacon, a primary care physician with Central Mississippi Health Services, checks on Jeremiah Young, 11, a back-to-school physical, at the Community Health Care Center on the Tougaloo College campus, in Tougaloo, Miss., in August 2020. As a Black primary care physician, Bacon has created a safe space for her Black patients during the coronavirus pandemic.
Rogelio V. Solis | AP Photo 2020

A new grant from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota will support antiracism research in the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota. Rachel Hardeman, an associate professor in the school, designed the program and will be its founding director.

She said the goal is to reframe how we think about and research health disparities.

“I think one of the most perfect examples of this is with maternal mortality,” Hardeman said. “Black women are four times more likely to experience maternal death, and over the years we’ve seen a lot of discussions that suggest that the reasons behind that are because Black women may be engaging in riskier behavior, or they’re not accessing their prenatal care visits, or they’re coming into pregnancy less healthy, they’re obese, things like that.

“But when we flip that question and really take an antiracism research lens to that research question, what see and what we understand is that there are systems at play that have caused Black birthing people to be less healthy when they come into childbirth,” she said, adding that Black women with high socioeconomic backgrounds and advanced degrees are still at greater risk of dying during childbirth than white women who don’t have a high school diploma.

Hardeman discussed her new Center for Antiracism Research for Health Equity with host Tom Crann. Click play on the audio player above to hear their conversation.

Your support matters.

You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.