The nation’s medical research agency claims preterm birth “can reveal a lot about how the traumatic death of George Floyd and the stress of COVID-19 have played out in the lives of pregnant Black women.” So, the U.S. government is spending nearly $2 million to study the impact of “dual pandemics”—structural racism exposed Floyd’s death and COVID—on black maternal health. The research will be conducted by the same public university professor whose taxpayer-funded work has already determined preterm births are significantly higher among “Black birthing people” in “over-policed” neighborhoods. The academic’s name is Rachel Hardeman, a health and racial equity teacher at the University of Minnesota who studied under Communists at Cuba’s government-run Escuela Latinoamericana de Medicina in Havana.
Hardeman’s recently completed government-funded project links premature births to over-policing. Specifically, her team found that police contact has negative psychological effects on “pregnant people,” and psychological stress has been linked to preterm birth. “Existing knowledge of racial disparities in policing patterns and their associations with health suggest redesigning public safety policies could contribute to racial health equity,” according to the paper published in a medical journal. A University of Minnesota story promoting the study claims Hardeman “found that U.S.-born Black birthing people living in areas with high police contact experienced a 100% higher chance of preterm birth compared to residents in low-contact areas.” In the article the professor reveals that the research focused on residents of Minneapolis and found that “U.S.-born Black birthing people and their babies were hit the hardest by over-policing, which is a form of structural racism.”
Now Uncle Sam has tasked Hardeman with investigating the association between “racialized police violence,” which also falls under the category of “pervasive form of structural racism,” and the occurrence of preterm birth and low birth weight among black infants. It will cost American taxpayers $1.8 million and the University of Minnesota is promoting it as a “first-of-its-kind study.” The money will flow through the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the nation’s medical research agency with a stated mission of making important discoveries that improve health and save lives. In an “urgent” notice announcing one of the allocations for the multi-year project, the NIH adds COVID-19 to the mix and refers to the pandemic and racism as “two public health emergencies.” The allocation is for $346,456. “This time sensitive request has significant potential to further revolutionize our understanding of the impact of racism on Black maternal health by exploring how the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and structural racism laid bare by George Floyd’s death while in police custody have impacted Black maternal health,” the grant document states.
Researchers will quantify the impact of Floyd’s death on trends in preterm birth and low birth weight as well as the risk of both related to spatial proximately to Floyd’s death and the ensuing civil unrest. They will also explore if the COVID-19 pandemic moderates the relationship between Floyd’s death and the risk of preterm birth and low birth weight, according to the grant announcement. Preterm birth “can reveal a lot about how the traumatic death of George Floyd and the stress of COVID-19 have played out in the lives of pregnant Black women,” the NIH document states. Another of the study’s aims is to illuminate the lived experience of how the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and structural racism have impacted black women who were pregnant in 2020. As part of the research 25 black women in Minnesota will be interviewed in-depth to illuminate maternal health outcomes for women living in the community where Floyd died.
Another one of Hardeman’s recent NIH grants, for $471,997, will fund research that focuses on understanding the degree to which acts of police violence negatively impact reproductive health outcomes among black women and exacerbate inequities in adverse birth outcomes. “This project will test the hypothesis that incidences of racialized police violence have both a direct and an indirect link to negative birth outcomes among black women compared to white women,” according to the grant document, which reveals that black women in the U.S. are twice as likely to experience a preterm birth or low birth weight infant. Decades of research has documented the magnitude of racial inequity in maternal health, the NIH writes. “The intractability of this problem suggests structural racism—the ways in which societies foster discrimination by reinforcing inequitable systems that in turn reinforce discriminatory beliefs, values, and distribution of resources—as a root cause of these racial health inequities.”