The Minnesota Department of Health has appointed Jose Gonzalez to direct the Office of Minority and Multicultural Health. Gonzalez joins the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) at a time when the agency is seeking concise strategies in bridging disparities of health. Gonzalez joins MDH after working with the Bush Foundation where he reviewed grant requests on community health projects. Gonzalez is not new to MDH, eight years ago he worked as a clinic social worker in family health and managed their Minneapolis interpretation program.
In a press statement, Assistant Commissioner Pat Adam describes Gonzalez as a needed addition to the agency,
“(he) has extensive experience in civic leadership, philanthropy, grant management, program management and direct services within governmental agencies, community organizations and private foundations. He has expertise in cross-cultural issues, youth violence prevention, and critical public health issues affecting low-income individuals, children, adolescents and families. He has authored papers and public health reports on youth violence. Gonzalez is a respected community leader with extensive experience in convening groups to work on critical and emerging issues.”
Speaking to the Daily Planet about the appointment, Adams said that Gonzalez’ role will “lead us [MDH] to increase our involvement in dealing with health disparities.” She explained the emphasis on the position would be to create strategic plans towards reducing parities by engaging in inter-department, inter-agency and community relationships. These strategies, she said, would include work on access to healthcare, access to social amenities for physical activities and access to nutritious food.
Gonzalez said, in a phone interview with the Daily Planet, that, as a minority, he knows only too well the challenges faced by minorities in receiving adequate healthcare. “I am constantly thinking of ways to ensure that barriers to access healthcare are including in healthcare programing.”
He hopes that his position will allow for a seamless connection and provision of resources between MDH, healthcare providers and communities of color.
Every two years, the MDH Office of Minority and Multicultural Health, through the Eliminating Health Disparities Initiative (EHDI), awards 9.5 million dollars to community health initiatives and programs that work towards healthcare of minority population in Minnesota. The program has been successful in eliminating some disparities, however, there are still concerns on the health and welfare of communities of color.
Adam points out that mortality rate of people of color with chronic diseases such as diabetes and hear disease is still a lot higher than that of white Minnesotans. While infant mortality rates have decreased for all population groups, there are still disparities. EHDI addresses, breast and cervical cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, HIV/AIDS and STIs, immunizations, infant mortality, healthy youth development and violence and unintentional injury in communities of color. Minnesota Commissioner of Health Dr. Sanne Magnan says that “eliminating health disparities […] will continue to be a priority for our work internally within the department as well as for our work with community partners.”
Gonzalez took on his new responsibilities on October 6th.