Today, Senator Tina Smith and Protect Our Care Minnesota were joined by a panel of Minnesota health care leaders and racial justice experts for a roundtable discussion on health inequities in Minnesota and the importance of access to quality, affordable health care for every Minnesotan. Roundtable participants explained how addressing health inequities fits within the broader movement for racial justice and the impact of health inequities on Minnesotans during the Coronavirus pandemic. The roundtable was sponsored by Protect Our Care Minnesota.
"I think we all understand that COVID is not the great equalizer," said Smith, who has made equitable access to care a priority while in office. "COVID disproportionately affects those who struggle without a safe place to call home, those who are working in frontline jobs and are therefore are exposed to greater risks, people who are living in poverty, and people who are living with the historic impacts of systemic racism and the challenges that this presents around health, and housing, and wellness."
"We need to do a better job of asking those who are most impacted, and closest to this pain and this struggle, what needs to be done, and what they need," said Dr. Rachel Hardeman, an Associate Professor at UMN School of Public Health. "We're shifting, particularly in maternal health, and it's critical moving forward."
"Before you create any policy, you need to listen to communities," said James Burroughs, Chief Equity & Inclusion Officer at Children’s MN. "We can't have two community meetings in places like the capitol or somewhere else that people can't get to, and then not have child care and translators available. That's not listening."
“We really need to address Native Indians’ social conditions to improve the health conditions. You can have the highest-paid doctor seeing Native American people but if you still don’t improve their conditions, that doctor can only do so much to have that person maintain their health and wellbeing,” said Jackie Dionne, American Indian Health Director at MN Department of Health.“We need people who understand the Native Indian history and plight, and are truly invested to see the health and wellbeing improved in American Indians. ”
“Our health care system is measuring the wrong things. We’re measuring risks, outcomes of death, and all these negative things. Yes, the Affordable Care Act is great, but we need to start talking about wellness and how to get there,” saidFoua Choua Kang, the Director of Health and Wellness at Hmong American Partnership. “What does wellness look like for communities of color? Let's build that future together.
"In 2014, it was encouraging to see the Minnesota Department of Health name structural racism as the main force for health disparities," said Mónica Hurtado, a Racial Justice and Health Equity Organizer at Voices for Racial Justice. “MDH has done a lot of work, but we have much more to do. I will say that the people experiencing the disparities are the experts in their experience, and solutions coming from those directly impacted need to be at the center of any effort if we want to succeed.
“We have a set of progressive policies that are already implemented, and we can begin to build more equity within these policies, and more anti-racist thinking into these policies — one being the Affordable Care Act,” said Reuben Moore, the CEO of Minnesota Community Care. “How do we continue to support the Affordable Care Act, and continue to drive its implementation?"