Any Minnesotan who watches or reads the news knows there is a Minnesota angle to every national and international story.  So here’s theMinnesota angle to the National Conference on Quality Health Care for Culturally Diverse Populations I attended last week. 

First off, Minnesota was well-represented in terms of attendees and speakers (probably disproportionately represented in terms of population).  The Minnesota speakers presented on a variety of topics. 

Dr. Russ Kuzel from UCare talked about the constellation of interventions UCare has implemented to improve health outcomes (and decrease inappropriate ER usage) for its Somali and other East African members.  Most interesting to me was UCare’s support for Health Care Commons, an actual physical space in Cedar Riverside where East Africans can come for health education programs  (topics include healthy eating, exercise and parenting) social connections and good tea.  According to Dr. Kuzel, attendance has doubled since the program began.  Presumably better health outcomes will follow.

UCare and WellShare operate a program where East African community health workers visit East African members in their homes and explain when and why it’s better to go to primary care vs. the emergency room.  This has resulted in a 52% decrease in ER visits, according to Dr. Kuzel.

Other UCare efforts include a culturally-specific medical management initiative (yellow pill box for sun/day, blue pill box for moon/night) and sport shoes for elders at adult day care center to encourage walking.  I was impressed by how thoughtful and responsive to the community UCare’s efforts seem to be.

 Other presenters from Minnesota included:

  • Tom Eckstein talking about  America’s Health Rankings (United Health Foundation) and efforts to bring epidemiology, including awareness of health disparities, to the general public (quite a challenge!)
  • Liz Anderson on HealthEast’s efforts to address the changing demographics in St. Paul
  • Sara Chute on developing more robust “cultural competence” within the complex MN Department of Health
  • Mary Beth Dahl on Stratis Health’s Culture Care Connection, an online learning and resource center to facilitate culturally-competent care in health care settings

More detail to come in future posts.  Your comments, suggestions and questions are welcome (via the blog comment section or email to