TWIN CITIES (Aug. 16, 2011) — Dear Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Ehlinger, MD, MSPH: We appreciate your leadership and consistent messaging around health disparities and health equity. You understand that health disparities are directly related to inequitable policies, systems and environments that impact social determinants of health, and that an essential approach to resolving these inequities is building an equitable system that engages community and can adapt to the diverse needs of Minnesota’s population.
As you know, Article 10, Section 4, Subdivision 2. Community and Family Health Promotion under the Statewide Health Improvement Program of the approved Health and Human Services budget bill for the 2012-2013 biennium, provides “the Commissioner may use tobacco prevention grant funding and grant funding under Minnesota Statutes, section 145.928, to support the statewide health improvement program.” These two funding sources (Eliminating Health Disparities Community Grants and Tobacco Free Communities Grants programs) currently target the reduction of disparities in Asian, African, African American, American Indian, Latino, and LGBT communities and youth.
As community-based organizations, community members and allies to cultural communities most impacted by health disparities and inequities, the Minnesota Health Equity Working Committee asks you to:
· Maintain the intended use and purpose of the eliminating health disparities and tobacco prevention funding by keeping their budgeted funds separate from the Statewide Health Improvement Program funding.
· Increase accountability of local public health across Minnesota to health equity through the inclusion of health equity impact statement in the Statewide Health Improvement Program proposal review process and implementation evaluation.
Loss of these funding sources that specifically strengthen the capacity of our communities to reduce disparities would effectively diminish the vision put forward by Statute 145.928 and dismantle a decade’s worth of infrastructure built through its community grants program. The tobacco prevention grant is the only youth focused tobacco prevention strategy in Minnesota, which if lost, will allow another generation to suffer the effects of second-hand smoke.
The addition of a health equity impact statement to the Statewide Health Improvement Program can prevent future disparities by ensuring the policies, systems and environments created through SHIP seek to benefit all communities. This accountability does not currently exist within SHIP.
The Minnesota Health Equity Working Committee was formed last fall, when Asian, African, African American, American Indian, Latino and LGBTQ community leaders, members, organizations and allies came together to reinforce Minnesota’s commitment to reduce health disparities. Our mission is to eliminate all health disparities and promote health equity by providing community supported solutions to decision makers and by bringing actionable information back in to the communities.
We thank you for your commitment to best serve our communities and putting forward a vision of health equity for Minnesota. The HEWC is available as a resource to you and your department to bridge and partner with our communities. You can contact us at [email protected]
Minnesota Health Equity Working Committee
Jasjit S. Ahluwalia, MD, MPH, MS Community Member
Gwendolyn Velez, Executive Director African American AIDS Task Force
Mayalan Keita-Brown African & American Friendship Association for Cooperation & Development
Kris Rhodes, Executive Director American Indian Cancer Foundation
Kevin Martineau, Executive Director American Indian Family Center
Asian Media Access
Pham Thi Hoa, Executive Director CAPI
Deanna Mills, Executive Director Community University Health Care Center
Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans
Division of Indian Work
Hmong Health Care Professionals Coalition
Sarah E. Huelskoetter, Concerned Ally
Chong B. Vang, Executive Director Shana Schrock, Operations Manager Htoo Lwee, Community Health Worker Karen Organization of Minnesota
Sandy Kwan, Community Member
Lao Advancement Organization of America
Lao Assistance Center of Minnesota
Minnesota Asian/American Health Coalition
Julianne Leerssen, Executive Director The Neighborhood Hub
Frederick Ndip, African Immigrant Community Member
Binh Nguyencong, Community Member
Stella Whitney-West, CEO Northpoint Health & Wellness Center
Kola Okuyemi, MD, MPH Community Member (Maple Grove)
Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota
Nancy Pomplun, Community Member
Rainbow Health Initiative
Delia Ruiz, Community Member
Southeast Asian Ministry
Yorn Yan, Exeuctive Director United Cambodian Assoication of Minnesota
Mr. Yen Pham, Executive Director Vietnamese Social Services of Minnesota
Diana DuBois, Executive Director WellShare International
Cc: Jeanne Ayers, Assistant Commissioner of Community & Family Health Promotion Bureau
Patricia Adams, Director of Office of Statewide Health Improvements Initiative
Jose Gonzalez, Director of Office of Minority and Multicultural Health
Bobby Joe Champion, MN State Representative
Jeffrey Hayden, MN State Representative
Patricia Torres Ray, MN State Senator