NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Tennessee ranks among the top states for African American maternal mortality rates.

Now, Tennessee State University (TSU) is using a multimillion dollar grant to explore the issue that’s disproportionately impacting Black women.

According to state department numbers, Black women are four times more likely to die from pregnancy complications in Tennessee compared to white women. With a $2 million grant from the Health and Human Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), researchers at TSU are now exploring the problem and are currently in the first-year planning phase.

“HRSA is doing something that has been needed and should have been a strategy years ago so that we can stop that big discrepancy and also so we can stop women from dying,” said Dr. Wendelyn Inman, the director of the Center for Maternal Health at TSU.

The money will be used in large part for research, including looking at national data reported by hospitals, laboratories, and providers to highlight how and why women are dying and why those numbers are steadily increasing. The top three causes of pregnancy-related death among Black women include preeclampsia and eclampsia, cardiovascular conditions, and embolism.

“We’re also getting information from community members who see things that are not a part of the reporting,” said Inman. “Bias, systematic racism, those are issues that have to be addressed and looked at closer sometimes than the data can show us.”

After the planning phase, the next step is to collaborate with the community through dialogue and educational resources in roughly six months to get the growing problem under control.

“Probably the biggest side effect is all women are going to benefit, because all of our providers will have a heightened awareness of the needs of women through this process,” Inman said.