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Despite evidence of racism's impact, Minnesotans disagree on how it affects health

·7 min read

New poll from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota reveals deeply divided perspectives remain

EAGAN, Minn., March 2, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Less than one year after Minnesota was the epicenter of a worldwide racial justice movement, 42% of Minnesotans still say racism is not a significant problem. Meanwhile, for communities directly experiencing racism (Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian Pacific Islanders, and other communities of color), almost 80% say racism is a significant problem, according to findings from a recent poll conducted by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota (Blue Cross).

Racism Is A Public Health Crisis
Racism Is A Public Health Crisis

"In terms of racial equity, 2020 was a watershed moment for our state, our country and the world," said Dr. Craig Samitt, president and CEO of Blue Cross. "These poll findings are sobering but also serve to galvanize our own commitment to advance racial and health equity. We are also calling on businesses and individuals – particularly those of us who represent mainstream culture – to shift away from a 'none-of-my-business' mindset and instead make racism and its impact on health everyone's business."

Racism as a public health crisis
In 2020, Blue Cross joined local organizations, municipal and county governments, and the Minnesota House of Representatives in declaring that racism is a public health crisis. The statewide resolution failed in the Senate, highlighting that legislators do not see eye-to-eye on this issue – along with most Minnesotans.

While nearly two-thirds (64%) of Black, Indigenous and people of color in Minnesota say racism is a public health crisis, a majority of white Minnesotans (57%) disagree.

"The reality is that racism is fatal – plain and simple," said Vayong Moua, director of racial and health equity advocacy at Blue Cross. "Racial and health inequities exist because people don't have equitable access to things like health care, healthy food or a safe place to live. This lack of access impacts health and is rooted in structural racism, which has taken a damaging toll on the health of our state for generations."

Learning, Reflecting, Changing
To help individuals and businesses on their journey toward anti-racism, Blue Cross has created online tools and resources with actionable steps to take to address structural racism and health inequities. Businesses can learn, reflect, and make meaningful changes in areas such as:

  • Diversity, equity and inclusion

  • Representation and why it matters

  • Equitable policies and practices

Similarly, individuals can learn and reflect on ways to take action in areas such as:

  • Bias

  • How racism shows up every day

  • Why we should we talk about racism – not race

The site also includes short animated videos offering simple definitions for key terms such as structural racism, white privilege and the Black Lives Matter movement. More video content will be added in the coming months.

"Conversations on equity, racial justice and white supremacy can be challenging, especially when we don't have a shared understanding of the language needed for those difficult conversations," said Moua. "We're hoping this information provides a basic foundation for advancing meaningful conversation, reflection and action toward systemic change."

How Blue Cross and partners are making race and health equity their business
To address racial and health inequities and encourage others to do the same, it is critical to start from within – a mindset and approach Blue Cross has maintained throughout its advocacy for more equitable policies and systems. These efforts include:

  • Our long-term commitments to advancing health equity and racial justice through statewide community funding. In the last three years alone, the Center for Prevention has provided more than $27 million in funding across the state, and the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation has granted nearly $14 million to support Minnesota communities

  • Changing the mainstream narrative on health and shaping the next generation of BIPOC journalists through our award-winning partnership with ThreeSixty Journalism

  • Working with Greater Minnesota communities like Willmar to address barriers to health faced by an increasingly diverse population. Our five-year Healthy Together Willmar initiative provided $2 million in funding and on-the-ground support to ensure all community members had access to what they needed to achieve their best possible health

  • Partnering with TPT to provide BIPOC communities with information about the COVID-19 vaccine

  • Committing $5 million to the University of Minnesota to establish the Center for Antiracism Research for Health Equity, which will develop evidence-based, antiracist research to understand and measure the impact of racism on health

  • Partnering with and funding the BIPOC-led, community-based organization Voices for Racial Justice to organize and lead a racial and health equity policy coalition. This cross-cultural coalition will advocate for and influence policies to impact racial and health equity at the local, regional, and state levels

  • Becoming the first Minnesota health plan to create a Gender Services Consultant position, committed to supporting inclusive and equitable care and service to transgender and non-binary members

Blue Cross is also proud to partner with Minnesota providers who have made strong commitments to racial and health equity, such as Allina Health.

"We all have a responsibility to acknowledge and address racial and health inequities in order to give all Minnesotans the opportunity to live their healthiest possible lives," said Dr. Penny Wheeler, chief executive officer at Allina Health. "We must be intolerant of inequity in all forms, and each one of us has an obligation to take action to help eliminate systemic racism and improve the health of our communities."

Allina Health has committed to efforts like collecting comprehensive race and ethnicity data to track inequitable health outcomes, as well as partnering with Blue Cross to create a shared commitment to advancing racial and health equity. This is just one example of ways that business leaders can prioritize this work and make meaningful change.

More information about Blue Cross' efforts to advance racial and health equity can be found by visiting BlueCrossMN.com/HealthEquity.

About the Poll
The public-opinion poll was commissioned by Blue Cross and conducted by The Morris Leatherman Company between December 29th, 2020 and January 23rd, 2021.

Statewide Methodology:
The study contains the results of a sample of 625 randomly selected respondents who reflect key demographics of all adults within the State of Minnesota. Professional interviewers conducted the survey by telephone. The typical respondent took twenty minutes to complete the questionnaire. Cell phone only households were 45% of the sample, while landline only households comprised 10% of the households. Forty-four percent reported both a landline and cell phone. The results of the 625 sample are projectable to all Minnesota adults to within ± 4.0 % in 95 out of 100 cases.

Non-White Methodology:
The study contains the results of 400 randomly selected non-White residents in the State of Minnesota, including non-white respondents from the statewide survey and a subsequent balloon sample. Professional interviewers conducted the survey by telephone. The typical respondent took eighteen minutes to complete the questionnaire. Cell phone only households were 55% of the sample, while landline only households comprised 7% of the households. Thirty-eight percent reported both a landline and cell phone. The results of the 400 sample are projectable to all non-White Minnesota residents within ± 5.0 % in 95 out of 100 cases.

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.


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SOURCE Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota