Center for Health Equity Announcements

Center for Health Equity Announcements

Join the conversation: Bemidji Community Conversation

August 2017CHE staff

You're invited to join the conversation in Bemidji at an event hosted jointly by the Minnesota Department of Health Center for Health Equity and the Northwest Indian Community Development Center.

  • Meet Commissioner of Health Ed Ehlinger and new Center for Health Equity Director Bruce Thao
  • Hear updates on the Minnesota Department of Health’s progress in advancing health equity
  • Share your perspectives on how we can partner to advance health equity in the state of Minnesota

Wednesday, September 13, 2017
3:00 PM- 5:30 PM

Northwest Indian Community Development Center
1819 Bemidji Ave. N., Bemidji, MN 56601

Please RSVP by Tuesday, September 5 by visiting the Bemidji Community Conversation Registration page.

If you have questions, or interpreting or ASL requests, contact Christy Nguyen by calling 651-201-5652 or emailing

Now accepting applications for Health Equity Advisory & Leadership (HEAL) Council

August 2017

The Center for Health Equity is now accepting applications for the MDH Health Equity Advisory & Leadership (HEAL) Council. The HEAL Council will advise MDH and provide a forum for honest and constructive feedback on the strategic direction of the Center for Health Equity and the department as a whole in advancing health equity.

The application is a two-part process. You MUST complete both parts to be considered.

  • Part 1: Interested applicants must complete an electronic application through the MN Secretary of State’s (MNSOS) Boards and Commissions Open Positions portal. MNSOS applications will be open until Wednesday, September 20, 2017.
  • Part 2: Upon receipt of the Secretary of State’s application, MDH will email a supplemental application form to the email address listed on the MNSOS application. This supplemental MDH application must also be completed to be considered. The deadline to submit MDH supplemental application is Wednesday, September 27, 2017.

Once the application deadline has passed, a review committee comprised of MDH staff and external reviewers will review, rank and recommend candidates to the Commissioner of Health. The Commissioner of Health will make final decisions and appointments to the HEAL Council. Appointments will be made within 3 weeks of the close of the application process.  

For more information, please refer to the HEAL Council Frequently Asked Questions.

You're invited to a Community Conversation

June 2017CHE staff

Monday, June 26, 2017
5:30 PM - 8:30 PM

1644 Larpenteur Avenue West
St. Paul, MN 55108


  • Meet the new Center for Health Equity Director Bruce Thao and the entire Center for Health Equity staff
  • Hear updates on the department of health’s progress in advancing health equity
  • Engage with other community organizations and champions

RSVP by Wednesday, June 21 by visiting the Community Conversation Registration page. If you are not able to join us in person, tune into our Facebook livestream, where you’ll be able to virtually ask questions!

The night’s conversation will center on using collaboration and relationship building to advance health equity. If you have questions, or interpreting or ASL requests, contact Christy Nguyen by calling 651-201-5652 or emailing

Bruce Thao selected as the Director of the Center for Health Equity

May 2017

Bruce ThaoIt is my pleasure to announce that after a robust and community-engaged recruitment and interview process we have selected Mr. Bruce Thao, MA, MS to serve as the MDH director of the Center for Health Equity.

Bruce has a strong record of working to advance health equity. Most recently, he managed the Linking Leaders Initiative at the F.R. Bigelow Foundation, a cross-sector effort to advance racial equity in leadership. Prior to this role, as the former director of programs for Hmong American Partnership (HAP), Bruce managed a large staff, budget, and portfolio of projects. In this role, he oversaw many public health programs, among them an EHDI breast and cervical cancer grant.

He is also a skilled community organizer, having managed HAP’s MNSure outreach and enrollment effort in Minnesota, while working to expand Affordable Care Act outreach to rural and limited English communities in California, Arkansas, Missouri, and North Carolina. For these efforts, the White House honored Bruce as a Champion of Change for Healthcare.

As a 2013 Bush Foundation Leadership Fellow, Bruce expanded upon his University of Chicago doctoral research on resilience, trauma, health and wellness across diverse communities. He is an expert and thought leader on historical trauma and holistic health and wellness.

Bruce’s extensive experience also includes policy work at the local and national levels, notably his advisory role to the mayors of St. Paul and Minneapolis on a Twin Cities initiative for boys and men of color, part of President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative.

Bruce has lived and worked in rural and urban communities across the United States, but now calls Minnesota home. He is deeply committed to ensuring that all Minnesotans are able to thrive and prosper. In his free time, Bruce enjoys running, biking, traveling and practicing mindfulness.

Sara Chute, who has been serving as the acting director of the Center for Health Equity since last fall, has accepted a position as the assistant director of Health Equity. I’d like to thank Sara for the extra responsibilities she took on over the past 8 months, and I’m glad to have her continued leadership and service.

Bruce’s first day at MDH will be May 22. Please join me in extending a warm welcome to him.


Edward P. Ehlinger, MD, MSPH
Minnesota Department of Health

Findings from Community Conversation on Equity

January 2016Photo of CHE staff

On November 14, 2016, the Minnesota Department of Health held a Community Conversation to discuss progress toward health equity. More than 250 community members and MDH staff came together and shared their thoughts, experiences, and suggestions regarding advancing health equity in Minnesota. Discussions generated over 100 pages of notes that addressed a wide range of health equity issues, including suggestions for significant changes within MDH. Summaries of these notes can be found on the Community Conversation on Advancing Health Equity page.

Planning is underway for two additional Community Conversations in 2017. The exact content, dates and times have not been set; they will be determined by a planning group made up of community members who expressed interest at the event and MDH staff. Updates about the Community Conversations will be sent to event attendees and to the Center for Health Equity list serv. Sign up for Center for Health Equity updates including our quarterly newsletters in the Email Updates box on the right side of this page.

Save the Date: Community Conversation on Progress Toward Health Equity

October 2016

Community members are invited to a conversation on progress toward health equity in Minnesota hosted by Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger, Assistant Commissioner Jeanne Ayers, and Sara Chute, Acting Director of the Center for Health Equity.

Date: Monday, November 14, 2016
Time: 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Location: St. Mary’s Calhoun Event Center, 3450 Irving Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55408

The purpose of this event is threefold:

  1. To provide an update on MDH’s efforts to advance health equity since the 2014 Advancing Health Equity Report;
  2. To provide a forum for community-based organizations and other champions to share stories of their efforts to advance racial equity and health equity; and
  3. To continue a dialogue about the challenges facing our collective efforts, so we may engage in collaborative problem-solving.
This event is designed for health equity champions in MN, including but not limited to: community-based organizations including organizations led by people of color, American Indians and/or LGBTQ people, representatives of advocacy organizations, community-organizing groups, members of the Healthy Minnesota Partnership, tribal communities, local public health, and others. The program will include remarks from the Commissioner of Health, stories highlighting recent progress on advancing health equity shared by MDH staff and community partners, and facilitated small-group conversations focused on upcoming action needed to advance equity.

Because space is limited to 150 participants, registration is required. To register to attend this free event, please follow this link: Community Conversation on Advancing Health Equity Event Registration.
If you have questions about this event, please call 651-201-3880.


MDH creates new organizational structure to boost health equity, community engagement

October 2016

A video message from the Commissioner:

Advancing health equity is especially powerful when the health equity lens is integrated into our day-to-day work. With that in mind, the Minnesota Department of Health is creating a new organizational structure that will strengthen the capacity of the department’s Center for Health Equity to serve as a resource for internal and external stakeholders looking to adopt a health equity lens.

This change will provide greater infrastructure support and governance capacity to the Center for Health Equity while reflecting an increased focus on integrating health equity into the daily work of MDH and partner organizations. MDH leadership is still working out the details of the new structure, tentatively called the Centers for Health Equity and Community Health. This structure will be led by Health Partnerships Division Director Deb Burns and will report directly to the Commissioner. Deb will support and coordinate the activities of the centers, which in addition to the elements of the Center for Health Equity will include the existing components of the Health Partnerships Division. The Center for Health Equity will be central to the organization and will continue under the leadership of acting director Sara Chute until a new director is in place.

In addition, Assistant Commissioner Jeanne Ayers will build upon the work she has been leading by adding to her existing duties the role of Chief Health Equity Strategist. In this capacity, she will work to advance health equity practices and concepts across the entire agency and with our partners.


Center for Health Equity Welcomes New Grantees

October 2016

2016-2017 EHDI grantees and staffThe Center for Health Equity has selected grantees to help MDH in its goal to advance health equity for Minnesotans. Two grant requests for proposals were issued by the center: Advancing Health Equity and Eliminating Health Disparities Initiative.

Grant dollars for Advancing Health Equity are for addressing measurable health inequities and identifying the social and economic conditions that contribute to the inequities, and for developing plans to address and improve these conditions. Two organizations were selected for these grants to begin in June:

  • Neighborhood Hub is focused on health inequities related to housing, employment and community health supports in three North Minneapolis neighborhoods.
  • Voices for Racial Justice is focused on the intersection of incarceration and health in three greater Minnesota prisons.

Eliminating Health Disparities Initiative grant dollars fund community initiatives that support improving the health status of people of color and American Indians in eight priority health areas. The center has named 32 grantees to share a pot of $5.142 million received from the legislature and from federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funds. In response to the request for proposals, CHE received 111 applications requesting more than $17.5 million.

For more information on the newly selected EHDI grantees, visit the 2016-2017 EHDI Grantees page.

Please direct questions to grant managers Asma Bulale at or Bridget Roby at

Center for Health Equity Staff Update

September 2016Photo of CHE staff

The work of advancing health equity is woven into every division and unit at MDH, but the important work of leadership, coordination and community engagement is performed by the Center for Health Equity. The center has had several staff changes and additions recently, including the departure last month of center director ThaoMee Xiong. We have started the process of finding a new director, and in the interim MDH international health coordinator and assistant section manager Sara Chute will serve as acting director of the center. Chute has worked at MDH for more than 10 years, most closely overseeing the work of the Refugee and International Health Program. Chute is excited about the opportunity to work with Minnesota’s diverse communities in a new capacity. 

In addition to Chute’s arrival, the Center for Health Equity has added several other staff to accelerate the work of advancing health equity: grant managers Asma Bulale and Bridget Roby, and community engagement planner Helen Jackson Lockett-El. For an updated list of center staff, please visit the center's Contact Us page.

Advancing Health Equity RFP Conference Call:
Wednesday, April 20

April 2016

The Center for Health Equity will host a conference call for potential applicants for the Advancing Health Equity Request for Proposals. Potential applicants are invited to ask questions related to the RFP, its requirements and process, and the expectations of applicants and grantees. Applicants are strongly encouraged to participate in the conference call, but attendance is not mandatory. Please note that staff will not be able to provide feedback on specific project ideas or the likelihood of receiving funding. Potential applicants may contact MDH at any time with questions related to the RFP.

Date: April 20, 2016
Time: 1 p.m. – 2 p.m.
Toll-free dial-in number: (888) 742-5095
Conference code: 4943252716

Registration is requested but not required. Please RSVP to Christy Nguyen at

Advancing Health Equity 2016 Request for Proposals

April 2016

The Minnesota Department of Health is seeking proposals from a non-profit agency (or group of non-profit agencies working as a consortium) to develop and implement an innovative, measurable process which engages communities experiencing health inequities to:

  • Conduct an assessment of a specified health inequity that will identify the structural inequities that have contributed to the resulting poor health outcomes
  • Identify the relationships between the health inequity and the structural inequities
  • Identify policy and systems changes needed to address one of the identified structural inequities
  • Develop an Advancing Health Equity plan to address the health inequity and the associated structural inequity
  • Implement the plan and identify measurable outcomes

Grantees must include individual and organization partners from the community experiencing the identified health inequity in all aspects of the proposal, including planning, project implementation, and evaluation. The grantee and partners must also engage with other relevant system, government and community stakeholders to identify necessary policy and system changes that can contribute to the elimination of the health inequity being addressed by the project.

Policy and systems changes out of the scope of this grant and the Advancing Health Equity Plan include:

  • Development of new direct services
  • Identification of new ways to seek reimbursement for existing services
  • Addressing access to health care

Important Deadlines:
Intent to Apply Form Due (REQUIRED): April 26, 2016
Applications Due: May 16, 2016
Grant Awards Announced: June 1, 2016
Contracts Signed and Projects Begin: June 14, 2016

Advancing Health Equity 2016 Request for Proposals

Working Group on Violence against Asian Women and Children

March 2016

During the 2015 Minnesota Legislative Session, funds were appropriated to establish the Working Group on Violence against Asian Women and Children. This working group will guide the collection of data from Minnesota Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities on violence against Asian women and children and produce a report for the legislature with recommendations on how to address violence against AAPI women and children. The Minnesota Department of Health Center for Health Equity is leading the effort in collaboration with the Minnesota Department of Human Services, Department of Public Safety and the Council on Asian and Pacific Minnesotans to address this serious public health issue.

On February 29, 2016, Commissioner Ehlinger appointed the following people to the Working Group on Violence against Asian Women and Children. The Center for Health Equity congratulates these individuals and looks forward to their contributions to the working group.

Name Appointment Date Term Ends
Crystal Brown February 29, 2016 December 31, 2016
Gail Chang Bohr February 29, 2016 December 31, 2016
Maytong Chang February 29, 2016 December 31, 2016
Raj Chaudhary February 29, 2016 December 31, 2016
Melissa Chiodo February 29, 2016 December 31, 2016
Dokor Dejvongsa February 29, 2016 December 31, 2016
Shellie Enright February 29, 2016 December 31, 2016
Veena Iyer February 29, 2016 December 31, 2016
Hannah Laniado February 29, 2016 December 31, 2016
Jewelly Lee February 29, 2016 December 31, 2016
Sushila Shah February 29, 2016 December 31, 2016
Jonathan Tran February 29, 2016 December 31, 2016
Claudia Waring (Chair) February 29, 2016 December 31, 2016
Zha Xiong February 29, 2016 December 31, 2016
Der Yang February 29, 2016 December 31, 2016

MDH seeks contractor for Working Group on Violence against Asian Women and Children project

March 2016

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) in collaboration with the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS), Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS), and the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans (CAPM) are creating a multidisciplinary working group to address violence against Asian women and children.

MDH is hiring a contractor who will work with MDH to serve as the main coordinator to be responsible for the working group activities and submitting a final report.

More information is available here at Professional/Technical Contract Request for Proposals for the Working Group on Violence against Asian Women and Children Project (PDF).