In early 2015, the Atlantic published an article entitled The Miracle of Minneapolis. This article argues that Minneapolis has the highest standard of living in the United States based on a number of health, social, and economic factors. As a native Minneapolitan, I knew this article did not depict reality in our community. Data doesn’t lie, but the author failed to show that there are significant disparities in the standards of living between the white and minority residents of Minneapolis.
I investigated the health disparities that persist within our community; the disparities I discovered were shocking. For example, a map of 35W, a major highway that runs through the Twin Cities, shows that life expectancy can vary drastically based on where one lives. Residents of wealthier communities lived, on average, more than about a decade longer than residents of low-income communities, despite living only a few miles apart from each other. These disparities continue to exist in part because of the lack of a health care system that works alongside community members, local organizations, and the government in order align systems and produce better social, health, and economic outcomes.
We know that systems working together have the potential to positively impact a community, and we have already seen amazing results from aligned systems in Minneapolis. Take the Hennepin Health model. Hennepin Health is an award winning partnership between the Human Services and Public Health Department of Hennepin County, the Hennepin County Medical Center, the NorthPoint Health and Wellness Center, and others. This model allows Medicaid patients to see a multidisciplinary team of caregivers- including social and community health workers. This aligned system has improved health outcomes for patients and has saved money for taxpayers. Now, imagine a similar but more integrated system that addresses the education, social, economic, and health needs of an entire community.
This is where the Communities of Excellence 2026 initiative comes in. This model provides the strong framework needed to align systems and guide a community to work together to identify and solve problems in order to improve the quality of life of all community members. Minneapolis already has a strong health care system, and ranks highly on almost all national measures of quality of life. As a community, we must work as one to do address disparities in our healthcare system and ensure that everyone experiences the benefit of living in such a great city. I’m convinced that the Communities of Excellence 2026 framework is the guidance our community needs to improve our community’s health, social, education, and economic outcomes for everyone, which in turn will decrease disparities in our community. With one pilot project already launched in San Diego, it’s time for Minneapolis to do the same.
*Learn more about Andrea Stoesz here