When it comes to health, Minnesota is a tale of two states. Often cited as one of the healthiest places to live in the nation, it’s also a state where a black child is twice as likely to die in the first year of life as a white child, where people of color experience significantly shorter life spans along with higher rates of diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
“We have been a model state — yet we also have the most glaring health disparities in the country,” says state Health Commissioner Dr. Edward Ehlinger.
Those striking disparities in health outcomes in Minnesota — and how we might begin to address them — was the subject of a panel discussion hosted by MinnPost and sponsored by UCare: “Health care equity: How do we get there?”
In addition to Dr. Ehlinger, members of the panel included NorthPoint Health and Wellness Center CEO Stella Whitney-West, Regions Hospital physician Dr. Bjorn Westgard, Hennepin County health policy program manager (and former state senator) Linda Berglin, and Minnesota Council of Health Plans Executive Director Julie Brunner.
The discussion — held at Northrop Auditorium’s Best Buy Theater — highlighted that health disparities in Minnesota are less a matter of health care than they are of overall health, which has as much to do with public policy choices around jobs, transportation and the environment as it does with individual decisions around exercise and good nutrition.
All of which means that very little will be accomplished, said Berglin, until the issue becomes part of a larger public debate. “Others besides health-care institutions,” she said, “will have to begin to feel they are responsible.”
Here is a video of the entire event, including the Q&A session that followed the panel discussion.