(FOX 9) – While the state of Minnesota has one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the country, racial disparities are stark.
Compared to white babies, black and state-indigenous infants are more likely to not reach their first birthday, and researchers at the University of Minnesota are studying the inequities and how to address them.
Lola Kostrzewski, 30, of Rochester is a mother of five with a sixth child on the way. For her, the joys of motherhood have also been accompanied by hardships.
“It was kind of like you were going to surgery, you lost that pregnancy. No time to process,” Kostrzewski told FOX 9.
In 2011, Kostrzewski suffered her first miscarriage just weeks into her pregnancy.
“And the nurse who was taking care of me came up to me and said why are you crying? And I was so surprised, like why am I not allowed to cry?” Said Kostrzewski.
His story is a shared experience.
“Our research has shown that when doctors don’t have, relate to patients or the people they care for, this harm can happen,” said Dr Rachel Hardeman.
Hardeman is the founding director of the Center for Anti-Racism Research for Health Equity at the University of Minnesota. She says that for every 1,000 live births in Minnesota, at least eight babies will not reach their first birthday. And black mothers face a maternal mortality rate more than three times that of white women.
“What we do know is that not everyone is getting high-quality, equitable care in our current healthcare system as it is designed. It was not designed in a way to keep everyone safe. “, said Dr. Hardeman.
Hardeman is partnering with the Roots Community Birth Center in North Minneapolis to find solutions.
“In terms of infant mortality here in the community, everyone knows someone who has lost a baby. Everyone. “said Rebecca Polston.
Polston opened the only black-owned maternity hospital in the state six years ago.
“There are a few things that I think are a big part of the solution,” Polston said. “One is to have providers who are like us, who understand us and know what our care is like so we don’t have to climb that hill to get basic care.”
Dr. Hardeman says there is a lot of work to be done to close the inequity gaps.
For mothers like Kostrzewski, facilities like Roots are part of the way forward.
“I was greeted with love, that was the only way to describe it. I was greeted with love,” Kostrzewski said.
Dr. Hardeman works to develop education and training based on structural racism and health inequalities.
The Anti-Racism Research Center for Health Equity was launched last year.