The U of M School of Public Health received a $5 million philanthropic gift from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota to establish the Center for Antiracism Research for Health Equity
To combat racism and enact lasting change, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota (Blue Cross) 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’ commitment to bring about change through philanthropy serves as an invitation for others to provide sustainable funding for the center and its goal of understanding and dismantling structural racism and its negative impact on health.
“In 2020, we saw Minnesota become a national epicenter for racial injustice, under some of the most tragic and heartbreaking conditions imaginable,” 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.”
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; and serve as a trusted resource on issues related to racism and health equity. Most critically when it comes to long-term change, the center intends to 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.
“I want to express our sincere appreciation to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota for this important investment in the University,” said University of Minnesota President Joan Gabel. “This center and Dr. Hardeman’s important work advances our commitment to foster a welcoming University community that values belonging, equity, diversity, and dignity in people and ideas.”
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 said. “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.”
Read more about the Center:
About the University of Minnesota School of Public Health
The U of M School of Public Health improves the health and wellbeing of populations and communities around the world by bringing innovative research, learning, and concrete actions to today's biggest health challenges. We prepare some of the most influential leaders in the field, and partner with health departments, communities, and policymakers to advance health equity for all. Learn more: sph.umn.edu.
About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota (bluecrossmn.com), with headquarters in the St. Paul suburb of Eagan, was chartered in 1933 as Minnesota’s first health plan and continues to carry out its charter mission today: to promote a wider, more economical and timely availability of health services for the people of Minnesota. A nonprofit, taxable organization, Blue Cross is the largest health plan based in Minnesota, covering 2.9 million members in Minnesota and nationally through its health plans or plans administered by its affiliated companies. Blue Cross® and Blue Shield® of Minnesota and Blue Plus® are nonprofit independent licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, headquartered in Chicago.