The University of Minnesota and Mayo Clinic have received a $19.4 million federal grant to start a new research center that will focus on racial disparities in cardiovascular health.

Minnesota has some of the largest disparities in health outcomes between its majority white population and communities of color.

The heart disease death rate is nearly 50% higher in Native Americans compared with whites in Minnesota, while heart disease fatalities among Black adults 35-64 are about two times the rate of whites of the same age, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

The five-year grant from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities will be used to support clinical research on community and primary care approaches to diet, physical activity, smoking cessation and other factors that impact heart health.

In addition, the program will research the root causes of health inequities, collaborate with community groups and provide assistance to new researchers.

"We are looking at cardiovascular disease, hypertension and obesity as chronic diseases that disproportionately affect BIPOC communities," said Dr. Michele Allen, an associate professor at the U Medical School's Department of Family Medicine. "We are trying to understand as one of those key drivers is racism at multiple levels and how it plays out in the development of chronic diseases and outcomes."

The new research center, known as the Center for Chronic Disease Reduction and Equity Promotion Across Minnesota, was one of nine initiatives to be funded.

The new center will collaborate with the Center for Antiracism Research for Health Equity, which was established in February using a $5 million grant from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota.

"We have known for decades that we have these stark disparities," said Rachel Hardeman, founding director of the center at the U's School of Public Health. "The goal is to create something that is sustainable and that will create a legacy of dismantling structural racism."

Hennepin Healthcare and the Native American Community Clinic in south Minneapolis are among the organizations that will collaborate with the new research initiative.

"We hope to begin to understand more deeply and richly the structural and historical context of the impact that racism and discriminatory processes have contributed to unequal access and health disparities for people of color," said Antony Stately, CEO of the clinic.

Glenn Howatt • 612-673-7192

Twitter: @GlennHowatt