On Tuesday, October 4, 2022, the Olmsted County Board of Commissioners accepted the final report with recommendations in the joint study of race and racism as a public health issue. The recommendations were the result of more than two years of work by volunteer advisory groups – the Olmsted County Public Health Services Advisory Board (PHSAB) and the Olmsted County Human Rights Commission (HRC) – to jointly study and investigate racial disparities that result from systemic racism as a public health issue. As the county moves forward with further evaluation and action, this work will now be called the Olmsted County Racial Equity Initiative.
- August 2020 - County Board Resolution
- January 2022 - Focus areas identified
- March 2022 - Solicitation for community feedback
- October 2022 - County Board accepts final report
- April 2023 - Beginning of Olmsted County Racial Equity Initiative
Joint study report and recommendations
Joint study summary in Spanish: Resumen ejecutivo del estudio conjunto - Español
Joint study summary in Somali: Soo koobidda fulinta daraasad wadajir ah
Joint study summary in Arabic: الموجز الكامل في اللغة العربية
The following steps for the Olmsted County Racial Equity Initiative are underway and are expected to be complete by mid-summer 2023.
- Identify and interview the employees and programs that align with and will evaluate the joint study recommendations for next steps.
- Collect information from employees to determine current assets related to the joint study recommendations and what opportunities and barriers exist as we move forward.
- Based on the information collected, discuss, and prioritize the next steps with Olmsted County board committees.
Frequently asked questions
Why is racism a public health issue?
Research shows centuries of racism in America has had a negative impact on communities of color. It impacts all parts of a person’s life, including where they live, work, worship, and play. It creates inequities in access to social and economic benefits, like housing, education, wealth, and employment. These conditions – often referred to as social determinants of health – are key drivers of health inequities with communities of color, placing those within these populations at greater risk for poor health outcomes. (Credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
Why did Olmsted County decide to get involved in taking on this initiative?
Olmsted County is a community that values and prioritizes health. In 2020, it was evident the COVID-19 pandemic was having a much more negative impact on ethnic and other minority groups. We want to balance this urgent matter with an intentional, and ongoing process of addressing the needs of our community and creating solutions.
What do you mean by racism as a public health issue?
A public health issue is something that significantly impacts the health of a community. Health is not just about the food we eat or the exercise we get – it is also about where we live and work, our access to recreation and clean air and water, and our opportunities for success. Parts of our lives that we don’t have control over impact our health. Community health relies on the health of all, and public health issues such as racism create disparate health outcomes, bringing down the health of the entire community. As a governing body, Olmsted County takes responsibility for raising this issue in an official manner and taking steps to address it. However, we all hold responsibility for community health and for taking action to ensure all can thrive.
Is racism a public health issue in Olmsted County? If so, how concerning is the issue?
Yes, racism is a public health issue impacting the residents of Olmsted County. According to the CDC, data show that racial and ethnic minority groups throughout the United States experience higher rates of illness and death across a wide range of health conditions, including diabetes, hypertension, obesity, asthma, and heart disease, when compared to their white counterparts. Additionally, the life expectancy of non-Hispanic/Black Americans is four years lower than that of white Americans. Olmsted County is no different when comparing the health outcomes of racial and ethnic minority residents and white residents. Olmsted County’s Community Health Needs Assessment has identified disparities that are connected to gender, race, and ethnicity regarding graduation rates, financial stress, homelessness, as well as drug and tobacco use.
See Olmsted County's Community Indicators report for additional information related to demographics and poverty levels in the county.
What is systemic racism?
Systemic racism, according to Cambridge Dictionary, is a set of policies and practices that exist throughout a whole society or organization, and that result in and support a continued unfair advantage to some people and unfair or harmful treatment of others based on race.
Why should residents support this effort?
Statement from Olmsted County Commissioner Sheila Kiscaden:
“Public health is about population health. How healthy is our community? When a group of people is having health issues, public health analyzes what is happening, figures out how to correct it, and works with the community to make those changes. There is no question that preventing disease and disability not only has positive impacts on individuals, but also provides broad community benefits. Healthy people are happier, more productive, and use fewer expensive health services. Public health investment is a win-win for the taxpayers: happier, healthier, more productive people, and less public and private expense.”
Statement from Olmsted County Commissioner Gregg Wright:
“The best way to reduce cost to taxpayers is to increase efficiency. Public health affects the entire community. The same principles that were applied to controlling tuberculosis, typhoid fever, and polio are being applied today to insure the health of the entire community. The most efficient way that Olmsted County can avoid huge costs is to employ the use of preventative measures. This also requires knowing where those preventative measures are most needed. Studying the issues that affect the health of community helps direct the best use of preventative measures which, in turn, minimizes costs and, at the same time, protects the health of the entire community. Consequently, taxpayers and the health of community are the beneficiaries of this study.”
One Olmsted is Olmsted County's diversity, equity, and inclusion initiative. Our mission with One Olmsted is to eliminate disparities and create equitable outcomes for everyone in Olmsted County through our commitment to diversity and inclusion and development of strong community partnerships.