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U of M gets $5M donation for new center to address racial inequality in healthcare

Using a donation from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, the School of Public Health will work to address racial disparities in healthcare.

The University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health will establish a new center to address racial inequality in healthcare using a donation from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota.

On Wednesday, the school announced Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota had donated $5 million to get the Center for Antiracism Research for Health Equity off the ground. 

University associate professor and Blue Cross Endowed Professor of Health and Racial Equity Rachael Hardeman will serve as the center’s founding director. Hardeman started her career in 2014 and has since focused on health equity and reproductive health.

“Antiracist research is a revolutionary way of doing research grounded in the understanding that racism is a fundamental cause of health inequities,” Hardeman said in a statement.

“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.”

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Hardeman noted racial disparities in healthcare continue to be visible in the current COVID-19 pandemic. In Minnesota, Black people have died of COVID-19 at five times the rate of white people, according to the School of Public Health. 

The civil unrest and protests over racial inequality following the police killing of George Floyd last summer makes the center all the more necessary, said Craig Samitt, president and chief executive officer at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota.

“In order to transform our state, inspire change and improve health, we can’t just say the right things – we must do the right things. We believe that Blue Cross’ investment in the creation of the Center for Antiracism Research for Health Equity will serve as a catalyst to advance health equity and dismantle racism from the structure and fabric of our society,” Samitt said in a statement. 

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