Addressing disparities in Hennepin County

Our commitment to disparity reduction

The work of our organization deeply focuses on the people of Hennepin County. While many of our residents enjoy the great quality of life this region gets recognized for, we cannot be blind to the fact that stark disparities exist – particularly for our residents of color.

Hennepin County defines disparities as differences in areas of life that result in one group having a disproportionate burden of negative life outcomes. It’s our commitment that we will reduce these disparities.

Communities thrive when everyone thrives

Reducing any individual disparity can leverage positive change and help reduce disparities in other areas. If one gear turns, they all move. These seven domains are interconnected and integral to reducing disparities.

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Shifting our lens

We see disparities every day in the places our critical support services serve people who are not faring well. We have an obligation to work toward eliminating disparities by whatever means we have. Here, in Hennepin County, inequities in education, employment, health, housing, income, justice and transportation are starkest between residents of color and their White counterparts. When we start our work from this shared perspective, shifting our guiding lens to one that is focused on a commitment to addressing these disparities, we can see the places, partnerships, programs and services where we have a responsibility to act. 

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Improving outcomes for all

In 2017 County Administrator David Hough charged Hennepin County departments to prioritize disparity reduction through all lines of business. The charge: that all work begin from a commitment to reduce disparities among the residents we serve in the ways and places we have influence.

Since then, the county has taken many steps, including:

  • Identifying seven disparity domain (education, employment, income, health, housing, transportation, justice) areas where county action can have the most impact
  • Creating a legislative platform that seeks to reduce system disparities, such as reducing the number of families of color involved in the child protection system
  • Addressing the conditions that drive involvement into the justice system and developing new strategies to assist ex-offenders as they integrate back home
  • Targeting funding, policies and service delivery to disrupt racism in the response to people experiencing homelessness
  • Using purchasing power to drive economic development in disadvantaged communities
  • Training workers for tomorrow’s jobs while helping clients be more self-sufficient
  • Adopting a Racial Equity Impact Tool to consider how different racial and ethnic groups will be affected by a proposed action or decision and provide a systematic way to engage the voices of those affected by decisions, surface unintended consequences of decisions before they are made, and reveal a wider range of options for policy choices
  • Creating a Race Equity Advisory Council (ongoing in 2020) to advise the county board on the county’s vision and strategy on reducing racial disparities and advancing racial equity throughout Hennepin County

News

On Tuesday, June 30, the county board voted to declare racism a public health crisis in Hennepin County. Due to racism, Black, Indigenous and People of Color in Hennepin County statistically have poorer educational outcomes, earn less, and are less likely to own homes or have access to quality health care and jobs than White people. These disparities have lifelong impacts, including higher disease rates, and, as we’re seeing now, higher rates of COVID-19. Naming racism as a systemic cause to disparities is key to continue to move this work forward.

Read the news release

Find the June 30 meeting at board meeting videos

Stories on work reducing disparities

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