Like every other commissioner in attendance, I listened closely to Governor Dayton’s 2015 Inaugural Address for any reference to issues related to my agency. Although I didn’t hear specific references to health or the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), I was pleased with what I heard – a speech constructed around principles, goals, and initiatives that should gratify anyone concerned about the long-term health of the public.
The speech began with an emphasis on economic security and education – two of the greatest determinants of health – and concluded with a call for “community” recognizing that “what binds us together is much more important than what pulls us apart. What helps one region usually benefits our entire state.” It was the Governor’s take on the Institute of Medicine definition of public health as all of us working “collectively to assure the conditions in which people can be healthy.”
In between, the Governor underscored issues that are core to public health: inequities (“inequities in wealth and income are at record highs”) and the need to strike a balance between spending on current needs and investing in the future welfare of our state (“Spending is for now…Investing is for the future…to produce future benefits and rewards. Wise financial management requires understanding this difference and striking a proper balance between them.”) That echoed what public health workers have been saying about balancing investments in treatment and prevention, medical care and public health. He tied all these themes together by recommending “that our top priority be to invest in a better future – by investing it in excellent education…and making that educational excellence available to everyone.”
The Governor emphasized education because“…an excellent education unlocks the door to unprecedented opportunities. Our future success – the health of our families, the vitality of our communities, and the prosperity of our state – will depend upon our making those excellent educations available to all Minnesotans…education is the key to our survival.” That certainly underscored the MDH vision for advancing health equity – that everyone have equal opportunities to be healthy.
In concluding his speech with a call for community, Governor Dayton urged that we should cast “Minnesota modesty aside – we should be proud because we so often are the best…(having) earned (that) through smart minds, good ideas, and hard work; through all of us pulling together and making our state – despite lacking the advantages of ocean beaches, or Rocky Mountains, or fossil fuel riches – into a place (that is) unique and extraordinary. A state upon which we proudly emblazon our motto: ‘L’Etoile du Nord,’ ‘The Star of the North,’ and bequeath it even brighter to future generations.”
As I stood with the rest of the crowd applauding, I thought “that was a great public health speech;” a speech that should challenge all of us for the next four years in creating a legacy of health and equity for our children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. Perhaps we even have the opportunity to create another “Minnesota Miracle” – one appropriate for the 21st century.