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Hmong Farmers in MN Part of Grant Effort to End Health Disparities

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Thursday, May 20, 2021   

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Hmong farmers in Minnesota are playing a role in trying to end health disparities for marginalized residents. They're getting help from a new grant program that seeks to remove barriers to healthier outcomes.

In 2019, the American Heart Association launched its Social Impact Fund in a handful of U.S. cities. Now, the organization is giving nearly $500,000 to three Minnesota groups.

Janssen Hang, executive director of the Hmong American Farmers Association, which will receive one of the grants, said farming is strongly tied to the Hmong culture. In Minnesota, he explained their producers grow many staples, such as corn and tomatoes, but also crops that are culture-specific to a variety of racial groups.

"They're very determined farmers here," Hang remarked. "They just grow vast varieties of crops."

His organization will get $100,000, with most of the money bolstering the group's Food Hub program. The initiative gets produce to educational institutions, health organizations and co-ops in the greater Twin Cities.

According to the 2021 County Health Rankings, certain racial groups in Minnesota have poorer health outcomes when compared with the general population. That includes Black residents nearly doubling their white counterparts in premature deaths.

Justin Bell, vice president of health strategies for the American Heart Association of Minnesota, said in recent years, his organization has placed greater emphasis on social determinants of health.

"And some of those things are housing, and access to healthy foods and education and transportation," Bell outlined.

County Health Rankings also reported only 20% of a person's overall health is determined by medical care, while the rest is determined by things such as social and economic factors.

Other Minnesota grant recipients include a community group in Bloomington that puts people on a path toward homeownership, while preserving Islamic religious principles. The third group tries to establish better life outcomes for those formerly incarcerated.

Disclosure: American Heart Association of Minnesota contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues and Smoking Prevention. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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