Righting the Course: Advancing Equity in Government

90-minute Workshops

Day 2

Session Code: S3-H
When: April 17, 2019
Location/Room: M 100 E
Level: Intermediate
Track: Government
Presenters: Marisol Chiclana-Ayala, Minnesota Department of Health  |  Sara Chute, Minnesota Department of Health  |  Bruce Thao, Minnesota Department of Health


In the highly politically charged climate we live in today, people are finding it harder than ever to trust government. This requires government leaders and agencies to be proactive and intentional in how they engage with the community, ensure equity in their systems and policies, and foster a diverse and inclusive workforce. This session explores how government agencies can embed and implement equity within and across their agencies, using the Minnesota Department of Health as a case study.

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), led by its Center for Health Equity, has worked over several years to orient its people, culture and systems toward advancing health and racial equity. MDH has 1,500 employees across the state and a $500 million budget. We’ll share the multi-level strategies of what it takes to advance equity within a government agency, as well as practical examples, tools and models of how it can be done.

Though many reports find that Minnesota is one of the healthiest states in the country, this is not the case for people of color, American Indians, and many other groups. In 2013, the Minnesota Legislature directed the MDH to prepare a report on Advancing Health Equity in Minnesota. The purpose of this report was to provide an overview of Minnesota’s health disparities and inequities, to identify the conditions that produce such disparities, and to make recommendations to advance health equity in Minnesota. The Advancing Health Equity Report came out in 2014 and made national news in its findings that structural racism is one of the largest barriers to achieving health equity. The commissioner of health then established the Center for Health Equity (CHE) with the intent of bringing an explicit focus to advancing health and racial equity in Minnesota and within the agency.

In order to reach its goals and ultimately achieve a state where everyone in Minnesota has the opportunity to be healthy, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, social class or geography, MDH recognized that it must become better equipped to advance health equity and embed equity into all program areas, policies and systems across the agency. MDH’s 2015-2019 strategic plan outlines clear goals and practices in order to intentionally change the way we approach our work.

The session will walk participants through each strategy and concrete tools, metrics and activities that were utilized to achieve MDH’s goals. We will also share the CHE mission, values and approaches, how this framework was developed, and how it guides our work across the agency as we develop statewide equity networks and support our community partners and grantees to advance equity.

Learning Outcomes
  1. Increase understanding of what it takes to advance equity within government
  2. Identify effective strategies for overcoming barriers in equity work
  3. Gain actionable frameworks, models and tools to implement equity work within their institutions

The Forum on Workplace Inclusion®
2211 Riverside Ave, CB 54
Minneapolis, MN 55454
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