President’s Blog | Together, we can make progress in reducing health disparities.

Diverse people putting hands in to signify teamwork

In recent months, we’ve all experienced a lot of things we likely didn’t expect we’d see this year: the emergence of a pandemic that has had devastating effects worldwide, the need for rapid adaptation to new and previously unthinkable ways of doing things (including how health care is delivered), and the shining of a harsh spotlight on the many ways that we live in a society that tolerates and perpetuates pervasive racial inequities.

It’s not news that Minnesota has large health inequities by race and ethnicity, despite its overall high performance on a variety of state-to-state comparisons on indicators of health. For example, since 2015 MNCM has published annual reports that show persistent large disparities in health outcomes for Minnesotans by race, ethnicity, language, and country of origin (our most recent report from May 2020 is here). MNCM’s comprehensive, statewide data on health care disparities is unique in the nation, which also provides our state with a unique opportunity for progress.

Making these data transparent helps draw attention to the problem, helps highlight where there are “bright spots” and where improvement is most needed, and helps assess whether we’re making progress overall – but it doesn’t directly tackle the problem. For that, MNCM needs partners – people and organizations who are positioned to take this information and use it to motivate, inform, and evaluate improvement initiatives. We know there are many who already do, and it is our hope that many more will do so in the months and years to come. We are committed to working with you in whatever ways we can to drive progress. In particular, we welcome suggestions, comments, or other input on ways to improve or enhance the usefulness of the data we report and/or how we can better support your organization’s efforts.  

This is not a short-term problem or short-term effort – though we are especially concerned right now about disparate impacts of COVID-19 and how the pandemic is likely widening existing disparities in preventive care, mental health, and chronic disease management. Instead, a long and sustained effort across many sectors will be required to make progress. If there is one thing that makes me hopeful, it is that 2020 has already shown us that it’s possible to make big, system-wide changes that previously seemed too difficult. It is time for Minnesota to lead the way in showing how we can make progress on health and other disparities.

Julie Sonier

Julie Sonier is President and CEO of MN Community Measurement.