U of M to study multilevel structural racism on whole person health across the lifecourse

Picture of two people standing in front of ladders. The white person has a ladder full of rungs. The Black person's ladder only has three rungs, making it extremely difficult, if not impossible to reach the top.

The University of Minnesota is one of two sites awarded NIH funding to study the impact of various levels of discrimination on health outcomes and to develop interventions that will promote health equity

Kate Dodge  |  Media Relations Manager 

MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL (06/20/2022) — The University of Minnesota and the University of Georgia have launched a prospective study to understand how structural racism experienced at the individual, neighborhood, institutional and societal/policy levels affect whole person health. This includes mental, physical, behavioral and social health.

“Prior studies have shown individual level associations between discrimination and negative health outcomes, but less is known about how experiencing multiple levels of structural racism affect whole person health for families and individuals across the lifecourse,” said study principal investigator Jerica Berge, Ph.D., MPH, a professor in the Medical School on the Twin Cities campus. “Findings from this study will allow for developing interventions that can simultaneously intervene at multiple levels of structural racism to promote health equity.” 

A lifecourse is a culturally defined sequence of age categories that people are normally expected to pass through as they progress from birth to death.

The study is built on a prospective longitudinal cohort study of 631 racially and ethnically diverse families (i.e., African American/Black, Hispanic, Native American, Immigrant/Refugee and white) that spans the lifecourse, from childhood to adulthood/parenthood in Minneapolis and St. Paul. In Georgia, 300 more families from rural settings will be enrolled to better understand experiences of structural racism in urban and rural settings with diverse families.

Co-investigators in this project include MPC Members Rachel Hardeman, Ph.D., MPH, associate professor in the School of Public Health; Alicia Kunin-Batson, Ph.D., LP, assistant professor in the Medical School; Angie Fertig, Ph.D., research scientist in the Humphrey School of Public Affairs; David Van Riper, M.A., Minnesota Population Center; and University of Georgia faculty Allan Tate, Ph.D., MPH and Grace Bagwell Adams, Ph.D., MPA.

The parent R01 already has three time-points of mixed-methods data (i.e., ecological momentary assessment and Geographic Information System survey), that includes discrimination and neighborhood segregation measures and physical, mental and behavioral health outcomes. In addition, cardiometabolic and stress biomarker data (i.e., heart rate, blood pressure, waist circumference, hair cortisol) and multi-level measures of structural racism (i.e., individual, neighborhood, institutional, societal/policy) will be added at two time points, 18 months apart.

Link to the original article.