The year is coming to an end, and we’ve all been reflecting on the 2022 we’ve had.
In my almost 10 months as the race and health equity reporter here at MinnPost, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the many health disparities we see in Minnesota and how people in the impacted communities are pushing to improve the lives of others by fighting for equity in their professions, hobbies and personal lives.
Many of the stories I’ve covered this year highlighted some of the stark inequities that face Minnesota’s populations of color. I’ve written about how Black children nationwide receive later autism diagnoses and how Black Minnesotans are almost two times more likely to drown compared to their white counterparts, among other topics.
There are large gaps in access and outcomes in Minnesota. I’ve heard the stories of people who have struggled to navigate our healthcare systems, people who have experienced racism while being a patient and people who are familiar with the several barriers that can often prevent high-quality and equitable care.
Among those stories, there have also been stories of success. Despite the many hardships that people of color face, what helps me continue this reporting is learning about how people who have those negative experiences are now working to prevent others from having the same experience they did.
People like Comfort Dondo, an African woman who experienced homelessness and saw how the shelter system didn’t work for someone of her background. So she created a solution, a house in Plymouth for women in similar situations.
Or others, like Tatiana Jara Pacheco, a Latine cultural broker, who draws from her own experience in an immigrant family, and now helps people navigate those same hardships her family experienced.
A common theme in my reporting has been access. Access to healthcare, whether that means having more clinics in places significant to communities, representation among medical professionals or apps that increase access to health information for people that could benefit the most from that.
Through my work, I’ve learned that increasing access has no downfalls. When the nation changed the suicide prevention number to the three-digit 988, calls in Minnesota increased by 44%.
What stood out to me the most this year is the passion that people have for advancing health equity, especially people in the communities most affected. Places like the Division of Indian Work, which is Indigenous-led, are dedicated to solving the problems that cause inequities in their community and, in the meantime, minimizing the harm of systemic racism.
Looking into the New Year, I plan to write a series about the disparities Black Minnesotans face. I’m looking for ways to illustrate the data that shows clear inequities and worse outcomes for Black people in our state.
I’ll be continuing throughout 2023 as the race and health equity fellow and, as always, if you have story tips or ideas, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.