Community Health Conference: 2013

Working Together:
Attaining Health Equity in Minnesota Communities

ImgThe 2013 Community Health Conference Planning Workgroup worked with MDH staff to organize the format, program, and speakers for the 2013 Community Health Conference, Working Together: Attaining Health Equity in Minnesota Communities. The conference was held on September 25-27, 2013 at the Cragun's Conference Center near Brainerd, MN.

Three hundred seventy-five people statewide attended the conference. Attendees included: local elected officials; local public health administrators, directors and staff; SCHSAC members and alternates; Tribal leadership and staff; community-based organization leadership and staff; Community Health Board and advisory committee members; health plan staff; MDH management and staff; and other public health professionals. Ninety-five were "first time" attendees.

Conference participants explored the idea that all Minnesotans do not have an equal opportunity to be healthy, which can be seen in each area of public health responsibility. Looking beneath the average health statistics revealed the complexity and health challenges faced by specific populations and communities in our state.

During the conference participants had the opportunity to:

  • Connect emerging national and state public health issues to public health at the community level;
  • Discover creative ways colleagues are approaching public health practice;
  • Increase skills to engage diverse communities in public health partnership, and
  • Improve knowledge of health disparities and their impact on achieving health equity.
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Conference attendees compare notes during a networking session with presenter Shawna Suckow.


The conference featured four general sessions:

  • Creating Community at the Conference and Afterward
    Shawna Suckow, Senior Planners Industry Network
  • Health in All Policies: How State Agencies are Creating Opportunities for Health
    Ed Ehlinger, Commissioner, Department of Health
    Tom Landwehr, Commissioner, Department of Natural Resources
    John Linc Stine, Commissioner, Pollution Control Agency
    Charlie Zelle, Commissioner, Department of Transportation
  • Public Health and Community Organizing: The Evolution of Public Health Practice in the 21st Century
    Rex Archer, Director, Kansas City Health Department
  • Telling the Truth about Trauma
    Syl Jones, Transformational Thinker, Journalist, Playwright, Producer

In addition, 26 concurrent sessions featuring 65 presenters were offered on the following theme areas:

  • Strategies to Improve Outcomes in Diverse Communities
  • Building Capacity at the Local Level
  • For Elected Officials
  • Working with New Partners
  • Integrating Pubic Health and Health Care
  • Telling our Public Health Stories
  • Challenging Topics

The concurrent sessions were heavily attended with several reaching full capacity. Participants appreciated the variety and quality of the presentations and benefitted by learning from colleagues and partners.

Highlights during the conference included the yearly community health awards ceremony and reception, public health resources and displays, after dinner conversations with the Commissioner of Health and the MDH Executive Team, and movie night.

Conference participants continue to see value in this annual conference. Feedback from 2013 Conference participants includes:

"Best place in Minnesota to connect with public health professionals."

"My favorite conference to attend as it re-ignites passion to keep doing what we do and should do."

"As a first time attendee, I was impressed at the level of cooperation and partnership stressed among all levels (State, Local, Non-Profit, etc.) of attendees. An extremely valuable conference for networking and establishing new relationships."

"Very interesting and relevant to my work."

"Great to come back to work with new skills and insights."

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SCHSAC Chair Bill Groskreutz greets conference attendees.


2013 Workgroup Membership

* County Commissioners

Larry Kittelson, Chair * (Horizon)
Karen Ahmann * (Polk-Norman-Mahnomen)
Ken Bence (Minnesota Council of Health Plans)
Deb Burns (MDH Office of Performance Improvement)
Xiaoying Chen (MDH Office of Minority & Multicultural Health)
Jackie Dionne (MDH Director of Tribal Health)
Dee Finley (MDH Community & Family Health)
Bill Groskreutz * (Faribault-Martin)
Allison Heinzeller (MDH Office of Statewide Health Improvement Initiatives)
Ardis Henriksen (SWHHS)
Helene Kahlstorf (North Country)
Amy Kenzie (MDH Health Promotion & Chronic Disease)
Dan Locher (MDH Environmental Health)
DeeAnn Pettyjohn (Dodge-Steele)
Deb Radi (MDH Office of Emergency Preparedness)
Theresa Evans Ross, EHDI Grantee (Annex Teen Clinic)
Jacob Zdon (MDH Infectious Disease Epi., Prevention & Control)

MDH Conference Staff

Liz Arita (Office of Performance Improvement)
Becky Buhler (Office of Performance Improvement)
Peggy Malinowski (Office of Performance Improvement)