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Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Initiative Aims to Catalyze Creative Solutions to Health Inequities

EAGAN, Minn., Aug. 1, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Minnesota consistently ranks as one of the healthiest states, yet it's also home to some of the worst health inequities in the nation. Health inequities disproportionately impact communities of color and American Indians, as well as those living in rural Minnesota and people with low incomes. Tragically, in the 21st century, race, place and income remain primary predictors of health.

The Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota (Blue Cross) believes that all people, regardless of race, income, zip code or other factors, should have opportunities to live the healthiest lives possible. To advance health equity, Blue Cross launched the Catalyst Funding Initiative and is investing $396,000 to catalyze creative solutions to health inequities. Blue Cross is awarding Catalyst funding to 15 culturally and geographically diverse groups working across the state. This funding will support organizations and tribal nations to implement community-driven, culturally specific efforts that address commercial tobacco control, healthy eating, and/or physical activity.  

"At the Center for Prevention, we believe that communities most impacted by health inequities are the best equipped to lead work that will help overcome the systemic challenges they face," said Anika Ward, Director of the Center for Prevention. "By investing in community-led solutions we can create a healthier future for the next generation."

The following 15 organizations have been awarded Catalyst funding:

American Indian Cancer Foundation will implement a communications campaign to address the rising electronic cigarette epidemic among Minnesota American Indians. The campaign will fill gaps in communications based on American Indian community feedback to ensure culturally relevant messaging is effective.

American Indian Community Housing Organization (AICHO) will implement the Indigenous First Foods Project, a community initiative that lifts up Indigenous foods and cultural practices as integral solutions to health equity. This project will launch a marketing campaign and Indigenous Food Expo to educate people in the community on traditional food systems.

Appetite for Change (AFC) will engage young people in the Youth Training and Opportunity Program to create original songs about health equity and healthy living as youth of color in an urban community. Participants will record an entire album of these songs.

Community Grassroots Solutions will adapt a physical activity curriculum to be culturally relevant and implement the Healthy Choices Program for Somali community members living in Saint Cloud, Minn. This project addresses the unique barriers people in the Somali community face to being physically active. 

Denden Eritrean Youth Development Association of Minnesota will work within the local Eritrean-American and broader East African-American community to raise awareness about and develop solutions to the challenges people in the community faces related to healthy living.

Dream of Wild Health will lead and organize summer youth programming designed to is to restore health and well-being in the Native American community by recovering knowledge of and access to healthy Indigenous foods and lifeways.

Exercisabilities, Inc. will implement and evaluate a curriculum designed to increase access to physical activity and healthy living skills for individuals with disabilities, trauma and/or addiction living in residential group homes.

Hmong American Farmers Association will address health disparities and food access for low-income, refugee and immigrant families through expanded access to the Veggie Rx program. The Veggie Rx program provides CSA shares to food insecure families for 20 weeks. Families will receive a box of produce weekly, filled with culturally specific and appropriate produce grown by Hmong farmers.

Minneapolis American Indian Center (MAIC) will develop a healthy food service policy for the organization. The policy will include guidelines on what foods are allowable to be served through programs at MAIC, in the Gatherings Café, and at events held at the MAIC.

Our Streets Minneapolis will host a series of community meetings that focus on the Transportation Action Plan for the city of Minneapolis. The focus of this initiative is to hear from residents that are often left out of the formal engagement process and demonstrate community support for equitable transportation in the city.

Minnesota Breastfeeding Coalition will create a series of videos on Hmong stories about breastfeeding, told by elders, fathers, mothers, and community leaders.  The videos will be shown in clinics during one-on-one appointments.

Minneapolis Public Schools will create a bike-accessible outdoor garden classroom that will build on current school garden efforts and inform Minneapolis Public School's vision for an education farm. The classroom will have a bike fleet that is used to provide universal bicycle education to 15% of Minneapolis public school students.

Saint Paul Youth Services will host a three-part series (Creating Healthy Black Minds, Creating Healthy Black Bodies, and Creating Healthy Black Lifestyles) to engage and educate youth about health physical activity and mindfulness.

Twin Cities Native Lacrosse will expand their youth lacrosse program to teach Indigenous girls from the Twin Cities and Lower Sioux Community how to play lacrosse and use cultural teachings to build positive self-identification and physical health.

White Earth Nation will promote healthy and traditional Native foods through easy-to-access meal kits and a mobile food truck. White Earth will partner with Native chefs to create recipes, Manna Food Co-op to assemble the meal kits, White Earth Tribal College to train residents on cooking the recipes, and local growers to supply foods. The mobile food truck will bring meal kits and other traditional foods directly to residents of White Earth Nation.

Catalyst projects were selected through a competitive process. Preference was given to projects that focus on communities experiencing barriers to health, such as structural racism, poverty, discrimination and limited access to resources. 

About the Center for Prevention

The Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota delivers on Blue Cross' long-term commitment to improve the health of all Minnesotans by tackling the leading root causes of preventable disease: tobacco use, lack of physical activity and unhealthy eating. Funded through proceeds from Blue Cross' historic lawsuit against the tobacco industry, we collaborate with organizations statewide to increase health equity, transform communities and create a healthier state. Visit  for more information.

About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota (, with headquarters in the St. Paul suburb of Eagan, was chartered in 1933 as Minnesota's first health plan and continues to carry out its charter mission today as a health company: to promote a wider, more economical and timely availability of health services for the people of Minnesota. Blue Cross is a not-for-profit, taxable organization. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, headquartered in Chicago.


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