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State health leaders and members of Minnesota’s tribal communities gathered on the steps of the Minnesota Capitol last Wednesday to celebrate the opening of a new Office of American Indian Health within the Minnesota Department of Health. 

“We need an Office of American Indian Health because it’s incredibly important not just to our community, but to the entire future of the state on Mne Sota Makace as a while,” Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan said in a press release. 

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The new office aims to address and balance health outcomes for the state’s Indigenous population. The program is designed to collaborate directly with tribal leaders both within Minnesota’s 11 tribal nations and with urban Native organizations to gain a comprehensive understanding of the unique health needs of Native Americans.

“It’s rare for states to have an office like this, and we’re proud to be leading the way here in Minnesota,” MDH Director Kris Rhodes said in a press release. “Our team includes grant funding program planners as well as administrative financial and communications expertise. We will soon be adding additional staff in the areas of policy and data and research.” 

This new office will facilitate targeted data collection and implement grant programs specifically for Native Minnesotans. Advocates believe this will enable the state to make better investments and improve the lives of Indigenous people across Minnesota. 

Leaders have announced that the program will receive $9 million in federal and state funding for fiscal year 2024. Those involved with the office hope it will serve as a long-term resource to mitigate healthcare disparities faced by Native Minnesotans. 

“We can stop saying that we’re a state with some of the best healthcare–but not for everybody; with some of the best health outcomes—but not for everybody,” MDH Commissioner Brooke Cunningham said in a press release. 

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