|By Michael Ollove, Stateline.org|
The supporters' main argument, that raising the minimum wage would put more money into the pockets of low-wage workers and their families, fell short.
This year, proponents seized on a new strategy: They convinced the legislature to ask the
The department's subsequent analysis revealed that health and income levels were inextricably linked. Whether it was rates of adequate prenatal care, infant mortality, diabetes, suicide risk, or lack of insurance, the results for poorer Minnesotans were vastly inferior to residents with higher incomes. In fact, Minnesotans living in the highest income areas of
The report virtually ended the debate. The legislature voted to phase in an increase in the minimum wage to
For at least a decade, most states have been focusing on reducing health disparities–the difference in health outcomes among different population groups. But
The idea, which has gained traction among health policymakers across the nation, is that to improve population health, it is not enough to have a good health care delivery system. It's also necessary to attack underlying social, economic and behavioral factors that contribute to poor health, such as deficient job opportunities, unsafe environmental conditions, crime, and lack of recreational outlets.
The minimum wage debate in
"That report created a powerful narrative for us, low-wage workers dying eight years before higher wage earners," said
By the time the
In it, the department said it was no longer enough for the state to attack health disparities on a disease by disease basis. The report argued that inequitable policies or practices in diverse areas such as transportation, housing, education and economic development also were damaging the health of disadvantaged groups and the population at large.
Some of those inequities, the report acknowledged, resulted from what it called "structural racism," which it defined as "the normalization of historical cultural, institutional and interpersonal dynamics that routinely advantage white people while producing cumulative and chronic adverse outcomes of people of color and American Indians."
The inclusion of those two words surprised many. "There are terms in the report that we haven't heard before from state government," said
As an example of "structural racism,"
"The (health equity) report illuminated that health is more than what happens in the doctor's office. It incorporates everything," said
Rhodes made that remark last week during a break at a meeting at St. Mary's
Abeler said he was also disgusted that the department would evoke racism as an underlying reason for health disparities. "I don't think it's a cause at all. It's a dodge."
By all measures, residents of
Yet, according to Ayers, the assistant state health commissioner and co-author of the health equity report, "We are also doing among the worst in terms of our disparities, and the disparities are in the part of the population that is growing the fastest. We are on a downward trajectory."
Aside from health disparities based on income differences, blacks (who make up 5.7 percent of the overall
For example, the death rate for Indians between 45 and 65 in
Almost all states have programs designed to close such gaps.
But Ayers and her boss, Health Commissioner
"Health outcomes are a physical manifestation of the inequities in the opportunities to be healthy," Ayers said.
–After the minimum wage passed, poorly paid subcontracting cleaning crews of Target, which is headquartered in
–Community groups, which successfully lobbied the legislature to pass a Ban the Box law in 2013, also incorporated health arguments in their presentations. The law prevents potential employers from asking job seekers on initial application forms if they had ever been arrested. Unemployment, the organizers pointed out, is closely tied to deteriorating health conditions.
The city of
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