Health Equity

We believe that health is a human right and assuring that right for everyone drives our research, our teaching, and our partnerships with the communities around us.

Social determinants of health can fuel inequities that are unacceptably out of proportion for some populations. For example:

  • African American and American Indian infant mortality rates are twice the rate of whites.
  • Diabetes is 2-5 times more likely to be the cause of death for American Indian, Hispanic/Latino, and African Americans.
  • LGBT adults are more likely to face mental health issues than heterosexuals.

Our studies also expose other underrepresented groups that face specific challenges to their health, like veterans, low-income mothers, and women of childbearing age in rural America.

We are determined to pave the way for crucial social change that will give all people the chance for a healthy life.

By 2020, more than half of the nation’s children are expected to be part of a minority race or ethnic group; by 2050, minorities will be the majority population.

We embrace the richness of these shifting demographics and we are prepared to move health equity closer to a reality. Our work is essential to understanding barriers to health, investigating their causes, and providing evidence for policies and actions to break them down.

Faculty leads
Sarah Gollust
Associate Professor
Theresa Osypuk
Associate Professor

Learn more about our research

Health equity is fundamental to our work whether we’re designing trials, tracking tobacco use in developing countries, monitoring the success of the ACA, or discerning the challenges to vaccine implementation.

As we move through this century, research that specifically explores health inequities and leads to meaningful and sustainable interventions will become even more critical. Our success in this realm includes a series of studies that show doula support during pregnancy and childbirth can disrupt longstanding racial and ethnic disparities in birth outcomes as well as reduce cesarean rates and associated costs. These findings were largely responsible for the Minnesota “doula law” that allows Medicaid payment for services from a certified doula.

Our work often reveals hidden challenges to health equity, like insurance-based discrimination, or opportunities to increase well-being in underrepresented populations. A recent study investigated barriers to park use by racial and ethnic minorities, including immigrants, and found a number of factors that can be addressed to help increase healthy outdoor activity.

Racial discrimination is a major factor in giving all people the chance for a healthy life. We are committed to examining racism and implicit bias in our own work and, in a New England Journal of Medicine commentary, we recently challenged clinicians and researchers to dismantle structural racism through five courses of action, including shifting our viewpoint from a majority group’s perspective to that of a marginalized group or groups.

Tackling the issue of health equity from all sides often means exploring “health in all policies” by documenting how housing and neighborhood, employment, family strengthening/marriage, and income supplementing policies can have an impact on health outcomes.

With novel research, like exploring how to bridge political divides with health disparities messaging, we will continue to advance health equity in new ways to meet the needs of the changing world.

In our resolve to end unequal opportunities for health, we forge ongoing collaborations to expand our knowledge and reach. Our Health Equity Work Group brings together University of Minnesota faculty and community partners to ensure that our students are well trained to work in a diverse society. And we are home to Interdisciplinary Research Leaders, a bold new multi-year Robert Wood Johnson Foundation initiative that connects researchers with community leaders from around the country to solve persistent challenges to health equity.

Explore our work in Health Equity

(* asterisk marks student, post-doc, or SPH researcher)

  • Barriers to Care and Health Care Utilization Among the Publicly Insured. (Medical Care). Elizabeth M. Allen, Kathleen T. Call, Timothy J. Beebe, Donna D. McAlpine, Pamela Jo Johnson. This study found that although many factors are associated with delayed and foregone health care, system-level barriers and discrimination have the greatest impact.
  • The long-term impacts of Medicaid exposure in early childhood: Evidence from the program’s origin. (Journal of Health Economics). Michel H. Boudreaux, Ezra Golberstein, Donna D. McAlpine. This paper found that exposure to Medicaid in early childhood could plausibly be associated with long-term impacts on adult health and economic status through increases in children using health services and reductions in family medical debt.
  • Access to Workplace Accommodations to Support Breastfeeding, after the Affordable Care Act. (Women’s Health Issues). Katy B. Kozhimannil, Judy Jou*, Dwenda K. Gjerdingen, Patricia M. McGovernThis paper found that only 40 percent of women in a national survey had access to both break time and private space to breastfeed, and women with both of these factors were more likely to breastfeed exclusively at 6 months and with each passing month.
  • African American caregivers’ resources for support: Implications for children’s perceived support from their caregiver. (Child and Youth Services Review). Tat’Yana A. Kenigsberg*, Willie Winston III, Priscilla A. Gibson, Sonya S. BradyThis study found, among other things, that if caregivers who are stressed feel that they have resources for support, the children in their care perceive more support from their caregivers.
  • Socioeconomic disparities in sleep duration among veterans of the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. (American Journal of Public Health). Rachel Widome, Agnes Jensen*, Steven S. Fu. This research found that among recent veterans, lower household assets, lower food security, greater reported discrimination, and lower subjective social status were significantly related to less sleep, even after adjusting for demographics, health behaviors, and posttraumatic stress disorder diagnosis.
  • Simon Rosser: 2017–2022, NIH National Cancer Institute, “Restore: Improving sexual outcomes of gay and bisexual prostate cancer survivors,” Principal Investigator
  • Rachel Hardeman: 2016–2019, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, “Interdisciplinary Research Leaders: Improving Equity in Birth Outcomes: A Community-Based, Culturally-Centered Approach,” Co-Principal Investigator with Katy Kozhimannil
  • Rachel Widome: 2016-2018, Clearway Minnesota, “Impacts of Commercial Tobacco Marketing on American Indian Reservations,” Co-Principal Investigator
  • Sarah Gollust: 2013–2018, Veterans Affairs, “Enhancing Motivation of Providers on Work to Eliminate Racial Disparity (EMPOWER),” Co-Investigator
  • Tetyana Shippee: 2016–2021, NIH/NIMHD, “System Factors and Racial Disparities in Nursing Home Quality of Life and Care,” Principal Investigator
  • Community Readiness Assessment: Suicide Prevention in the Lower Sioux Indian Community (Public Health Administration & Policy)=
  • Minimizing the negative health consequences of homelessness on LGBTQ youth (Public Health Administration & Policy)
  • Identifying barriers to Medicaid enrollment for homeless adults (Public Health Administration & Policy)
  • Assessing urban American Indian health: A community-based approach to understanding obesity normalization (Public Health Administration & Policy)
  • The Color of Health Equity: Whiteness, Interventions, and Alternatives in Public Health Advocacy (Maternal and Child Health)

Faculty in Health Equity

Faculty Leads

Sarah Gollust
Associate Professor

Theresa Osypuk
Associate Professor


SPH2030 New Faculty Hires

Nicole Basta

Assistant Professor Nicole Basta investigates the epidemiology and transmission of infectious diseases, the impact of vaccines, vaccination programs, and other public health interventions.

Timothy Beebe

Professor Tim Beebe develops and tests health measures and evaluates new data collection methods. His research interests also include health care policy and racial and ethnic disparities in health care.

Assistant Professor Linda Frizzell advises on health care policy and long-term care for tribal health. She was recently named to the U.S. Health and Human Services’ Advisory Committee on Minority Health.

Assistant Professor Rachel Hardeman

Assistant Professor Rachel Hardeman is a health equity researcher who focuses on the role of the clinician, health care delivery systems, and the policy environment in reducing disparities in outcomes and quality of health care.

Other Faculty

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