Closing the Health Status Gap in the Nation’s Healthiest State: Paddling Upstream in the Land of 10,000 Lakes

Grantmakers in Health



Case Study Sector

Although Minnesota is widely regarded to be the healthiest state in the nation overall, according to United Health’s annual America’s Health Rankings, a closer examination of health data by race, ethnicity, income, and education, reveal an alarming pattern of health disparities. In Minnesota, as in other states, the root causes of health disparities tend to lie upstream. Social, economic, and environmental factors have a profound impact on health, quality of life, and life expectancy.
The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation staff and board are carrying out a long-term, strategic plan involving grantmaking, policy support, and leadership development and recognition—the result of a year-long, in-depth exploration of social determinants of health. Foundation staff conducted research and partnered with national experts in a series of learning activities to expand understanding of the opportunities and challenges of working upstream. The foundation also convened local leaders in three regions of the state to discover the impact of social, economic, and environmental determinants of health on their communities, learn about current efforts, and seek ideas on starting points and partnerships. The foundation’s in-depth discovery process led to the board’s decision to adopt a new strategic direction on social determinants of health over the next 10 years.



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