Antiracism and Health Equity Funding

February 21, 2021 — Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota (BCBS) donated $5 million to the University of Minnesota School of Public Health (SPH) to establish the Center for Antiracism Research for Health Equity. Rachel Hardeman, associate professor and Blue Cross Endowed Professor of Health and Racial Equity, created the vision for the center and will serve as its founding director. 

This is the largest gift to a center at SPH. Blue Cross’s commitment is focused on providing for the understanding and dismantling of the negative impact of structural racism on health.

The Center for Antiracism Research for Health Equity will:

  • Develop education and training on structural racism and health inequities;
  • Foster authentic community engagement to address the root causes of racial health inequities and drive action;
  • Change the narrative about race and racism to one that does not hold up whiteness as the ideal standard for human beings;
  • Serve as a resource on issues related to racism and health equity;
  • Be a leader in antiracist health research.

“Antiracist research is a revolutionary way of doing research grounded in the understanding that racism is a fundamental cause of health inequities,” said Hardeman. “Among other things, antiracist research requires that we lift up the voices of those closest to the pain and it reframes research questions that often begin with the premise that there is something wrong with Black and brown people that makes them sick.”

In Minnesota and across the U.S., individuals who are Black, Indigenous, and people of color experience ill health and death rates that exceed their white counterparts, often by large margins. During the pandemic, Black Minnesotans are dying from COVID-19 at a rate five times higher than white Minnesotans when adjusted for age.

Hardeman, a Minneapolis native, began her career in 2014 when there was very little scholarship in naming and measuring the effects of structural racism on health. During her time at SPH, she has become an internationally recognized scholar in the fields of health equity and reproductive health. Hardeman’s research has fundamentally shifted public health’s approach to the elimination of racial health inequities. She has made health inequities due to racism more visible and has offered evidence as to how to dismantle them. 

“As a Black child growing up in Minnesota, it was clear to me from a very young age that not everyone was afforded the same opportunities to achieve optimal health and wellbeing,” she says. “I saw very real examples of racial health inequities in my own family and within the broader community. I have dedicated my career to advancing racial justice so that Black communities can live full, healthy lives, and I see no better place to do this than right here at home.”