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Minnesota Public Health Association

Since 1907, MPHA has been dedicated to creating a healthier Minnesota through effective public health practice and engaged citizens. 


  • March 07, 2014 4:23 PM | Anonymous member

    Robert “Bob” Schwanke, a retired associate professor at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, began his career in public health in 1955 following his service in the U. S. Army. He began as a health education specialist with the Minnesota Department of Health and then served as director of education at the Sister Elizabeth Kenny Institute and American Rehabilitation Foundation. Bob then joined the Minnesota Society for Crippled Children and Adults (now Courage Center) to launch a five-year statewide program to improve accessibility for the disabled. Directing the Architectural Barriers Education and Research Project, he wrote and guided the process to secure adoption of a law by the Minnesota Legislature in 1963, requiring all new and remodeled public buildings be fully accessible to the disabled and elderly. 

    In 1966, Bob joined the School of Public Health (SPH) as assistant professor and assistant dean, a relationship that would extend into over 25 years of service. He introduced numerous curriculum and course innovations, serving as director of interdisciplinary studies, alcohol and other drug counseling and the joint public health/social work degree program, which has served as a model for numerous subsequent interdisciplinary programs. He also designed courses tailored to student needs in their practice areas such as basic principles and concepts of public health, needs assessment and planning, change management, interdisciplinary team building, and human sexuality. 

    Throughout his career, Bob stayed active volunteering with the Minnesota Public Health Association (MPHA), serving as its president in 1969-70, prompting its reorganization. He continued to serve on numerous boards and advisory committees of community and state and local governments. Under Bob’s leadership, MPHA drafted legislation that has enabled minors to seek needed help and legally authorize professionals to provide services on a confidential basis. The Minor’s Consent to Health Services Act of 1971 became a model statute across the country. In 1976, he was awarded the Albert Justus Chesley Award for his outstanding contributions to the health of the people of Minnesota by the MPHA.

    Since retiring from SPH in 1992, Bob has continued with ongoing volunteer activities with MPHA and St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, and has served as a consultant with various local and state organizations and mentored public health professionals.  He and his wife, Phyllis, live in St. Paul. 


    About the Award: The Alumni Award of Merit, established in 2014, recognizes graduates of the School of Public Health who have achieved professional excellence in the field of public health through numerous years of consistent performance and service, distinguished themselves in their particular profession or field of endeavor, and contributed substantially to the health and well-being of people, communities and society.

  • March 07, 2014 4:17 PM | Anonymous member

    As Commissioner of the Minneapolis Health Department since 2005, Gretchen Musicant oversees and manages the Department’s mission of improving the quality of life for all people in the city by protecting the environment, preventing disease and injury, promoting healthy behaviors, and creating a city that is a healthy place to live, work and play. Before her appointment to Commisioner, Gretchen served as the Minneapolis Health Department’s director of public health initiatives, a role in which she demonstrated her ability to form lasting connections with community groups and organizations. 

    With innovative leadership skills, Gretchen played a vital role in the success and strategic direction of several programs including school-based clinic programs, Healthy Start, the New Families Centers and the TANF visiting program, all of which continue to help reduce infant mortality, provide immunization and insurance to new public school students, and improve youth development and family well-being in Minneapolis. One of the key features of Gretchen’s leadership is her reliance on partnerships to bring about change. She devotes considerable time and resources to making connections, developing partnerships across agencies and within communities. 

    Prior to working for the City, Gretchen honed substantial public policy experience serving as vice president of community health for the Minnesota Hospital Association and a government affairs specialist for the Minnesota Nurses Association.  

    As a former president of the SPH Alumni Society, Gretchen sits on the School’s public health administration and policy program advisory board and recently chaired the Metro Local Public Health Association. She received the 2007 Paul and Sheila Wellstone Public health Achievement Award from the Minnesota Public Health Association and was designated one of 100 Distinguished Nursing Alumni from the School of Nursing, where she earned her bachelors of science.

    About the Award: The Gaylord W. Anderson Leadership Award is bestowed upon a graduate of the School of Public Health who embodies Anderson’s qualities as a visionary leader, teacher, collaborator and public health ambassador, and possesses an abundance of intellectual curiosity, critical thinking, and the ability to inspire others. Recipients of the Leadership Award must have:

    1. demonstrated leadership and forward thinking, and advanced public health goals, initiatives and outcomes; 
    2. served as an exemplary model or mentor in his/her role as an educator, researcher, administrator, practitioner or advocate in public health; and 
    3. exhibited creativity and innovation in building partnerships, multidisciplinary teams or service structures to bring about change.

  • March 06, 2014 5:04 PM | Anonymous member

    Join MPHA during National Public Health Week for the annual MPHA Day on the Hill! 

    The theme this year is Health in All Policies. Accordingly we will be focusing on multi-sector public health issues: minimum wage and active transportation.


  • January 09, 2014 3:58 PM | Anonymous member

    The Minnesota Department of Health's draft Advancing Health Equity in Minnesota Legislative Report is now posted for public comment:  

    This is your opportunity to review and provide additional feedback on the report before it is submitted it to the legislature on February 1.  Please note the important upcoming dates and opportunities to provide feedback. It is the goal of MDH to collect written feedback on the draft report by January 24. These written comments will be included in a companion document to the report.

    January 15, Wednesday

    Community Listening Session, 7 to 9 p.m., at the Minnesota Humanities Center, 987 Ivy Avenue East, St. Paul, 55106.  For information about how to sign up and provide oral/written feedback, visit

    January 22, Wednesday

    A WebEx Community Listening Session, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.  For information about how to sign up and provide oral/written feedback, visit

    January 24, Friday

    Deadline for formal written feedback that will be included in a companion document. Email written feedback to by Friday, January 24, 4:30 p.m. Subject: Advancing Health Equity REPORT FEEDBACK.
  • October 22, 2013 10:31 PM | Anonymous member
    Help plan the 2014 annual MPHA meeting/conference. Over 160 people from multiple sectors attended last year's conference focused on HiAP and creating health equity. We need your ideas and energy to make next year's gathering one that will inspire us in our various roles in public health. To get involved, please contact Kristen Godfrey Walters ( or Kristin Voltzke (, co-chairs of this conference planning committee.
  • August 29, 2013 4:26 PM | Anonymous member

    MPHA members are being invited to consider volunteering as mentors for SPH students. I know from 16 years of mentoring through the SPH that it is a wonderful opportunity to share experiences and expertise with students. I have gained much through this exchange over the years!

      *   Deadline to sign up: Sept. 23

      *   Link to sign up:

      *   Questions: Nichole Axtman, or 612-626-9303

    Thank you for considering this invitation!

    Carol  Berg

    MPHA President

  • February 06, 2013 8:10 AM | Deleted user

    Read the report here.

  • January 29, 2013 7:40 PM | Deleted user

    Notes from MPHA Forum: “Teens and Sexuality--- What’s New Beyond the Birds and the Bees?”

    January 25, 2013

    Forum Panelists:

    ·      Andrés Alvarez and Kadeeja Rivers, Planned Parenthood Teen Council

    ·      Nina Jonson, My Health for Teens and Young Adults

    ·      Judith Kahn, Executive Director of Teenwise Minnesota


    ·      Ken Bence

    Opening Statements/Introductions:

    Judith Kahn:

    ·      All young people have a set of fundamental needs

    ·      Protective factors/ assets provide opportunities for healthy decision making

    Nina Johnson:

    ·      My Health for Teens and Young Adults (formerly West Suburban Teen Clinic) provides important medical/clinic services for teens, also provides education to the community on sexuality

    ·      Teens need to learn more than just the mechanics of sex and how to have safe sex, but need to know what a healthy relationship looks like

    ·      Many teens do not have role models in their lives who demonstrate what healthy relationships look like

    ·      “Beyond the Birds and the Bees” is really, how do the birds and the bees live together in harmony?

    Kadeeja Rivers:

    ·      Planned Parenthood’s Teen Council meets on Monday nights; is a peer group where they learn about reproductive health topics

    ·      It’s really important for teens to know both the medical and emotional aspects of sex

    Andrés Alvarez:

    ·      It’s fun learning about reproductive health with the Teen Council

    Question (to Kadeeja and Andrés): “How do you communicate with your peers about sex?”

    Andrés Alvarez:

    ·      We work with health teachers, also correct misinformation we hear from other teens

    Kadeeja Rivers:

    ·      We do classroom presentations, but teens often approach us after class with questions

    ·      Birth control is usually the most common topic

    Question (to Nina and Judith):  How do you bring up topics of sex in your work?

    Nina Jonson:

    ·      Our clinic provides a lot of reproductive health clinic services, and we always do a very comprehensive medical history including reproductive health history

    ·      Bringing up reproductive health is central to our work

    ·      We try to use humor as a balance to reach youth and communities; there is a balance between using humor but also discussing a very serious topic

    Judith Kahn:

    ·      We help parents first understand their own values

    ·      Try to help parents understand that they should be having an ongoing conversation with their child about sex, and not just “the talk”

    Question (to Kadeeja and Andrés):  How do you go about bringing up issues around sex in the high school setting?

    Kadeeja Rivers: 

    ·      No one really seems to talk to their parents about sex, because their parents don’t want to talk to their kids about it.

    ·      Parents don’t think their own kids are having sex, even though they know the statistics.

    Question (to Andrés):  How do you open the conversation with teen guys?

    Andrés Alvarez:

    ·      My guy friends have pretty open conversations with their parents

    ·      Parents should bring up the topic of sex at a younger age, because if they do teens are more likely to have this conversation with their parents later

    Question (to all):  In your work and experience, how are we working to address health disparities? 

    Nina Jonson:

    ·      A lot of work is being done to improve healthcare for the GLBT populations

    o   This is really a positive change; it’s on the radar that there are a lot of disparities facing GLBT youth and adults

    o   A young person knows right away if a place is friendly and somewhere they want to be

    Judith Kahn:

    ·      Statewide, we see higher rates of STIs and pregnancies where there are fewer resources; it’s important to remember geographic disparities

    ·      Also, Teenwise recognizes the disparities of youth in foster care systems, who are twice as likely to be pregnant, and the needs of youth in correctional facilities

    ·      Really, it is important to target under-resourced communities

    Kadeeja Rivers:

    ·      We need to teach comprehensive sex ed in the schools; what I learned about sex was through Planned Parenthood, not through my school

    ·      Repeat visits in classrooms are really important; if the work with Teen Council was more continuous with the same students, we would have a greater impact on the youth because they would feel more comfortable opening up and asking questions with time

    Question (to all):  Can you speak to working with youth who are experiencing high risk stressors (i.e. homelessness, concerns for GLBT youth, etc.)?

    Nina Jonson:

    ·      It is important to know that there are homeless young people in every community, even in the suburbs

    ·      Every year, there are fewer resources available to help youth who are homeless or highly mobile

    Judith Kahn:

    ·      Rural communities are often a “resource desert”

    ·      Rural youth facing these types of stressors often will find their way to the Twin Cities thinking it will be easier for them;  many end up homeless

    ·      Pressure to end up depending on survival sex is very common for homeless youth

    Question (to Kadeeja and Andrés):  How much of an issue is homelessness at your school [Mpls South]?

    Kadeeja Rivers: 

    ·      Yes, homelessness is a problem at South, but as a student, it’s hard to see sometimes

    ·      Cost is a really big issue for most youth because they don’t have much money; it’s really important for teens to know about low cost/ free birth control options available to them

    ·      Sometimes teens will “risk it” and not use protection because they don’t have money and don’t know they can get free/ low cost birth control

    ·      I always try to teach about free/low cost birth control every time I teach, because it’s really important for teens to know they can access these resources and get birth control

    Question (to all):  How does social media play into this question of healthy relationships? 

    Andrés Alvarez:

    ·      Regarding relationships, there is definitely not the same type of connection you have on social media vs. face-to-face

    Kadeeja Rivers:

    ·      Electronic communication makes it much easier to have unhealthy relationships

    ·      It is much easier to be mean on the computer or via text

    ·      Teens often use the term “fake relationships”

    o   Girls often want a boyfriend to make their relationship “facebook official”

    Nina Jonson:

    ·      When I work with teens, I try to help them put social media in the context of real life

    o   I will work with youth to consider privacy issues and social media (i.e. if they wouldn’t shout their facebook status to all of the Mall of America, they probably shouldn’t post it on facebook)

    ·      Our Youth Advisory Board describes how comments on You Tube are a great example of just who cruel people can be when they are on a keyboard vs. face-to-face communication

    Judith Kahn:

    ·      Social media affects not just sexual relationships for youth, but also peer-to-peer relationships

    ·      Interpersonal communication skills are needed for our youth, because they need these skills to negotiate and express what they need in the real world; they need the opportunity to practice these face-to-face skills

    Question (to all):  In your work, how do you take into account the wide range of opinions/beliefs on the somewhat controversial topic of teens and sex?

    Nina Jonson:

    ·      Early in my work I had a great supervisor who helped me learn how to deal with “angry parent” calls

    o   Always have to find a place where you can agree with the parent; usually, this is something like, “We both want healthy and safe kids”

    Judith Kahn:

    ·      I have found training in mediation has been very helpful

    o   When talking to those who disagree with your work (parents, policy makers, etc.), you really have to listen and try to hear their underlying interest

    Question (to Kadeeja and Andrés):  Do you get pushback with your work with Teen Council?

    Andrés Alvarez:

    ·      Example: a kid in a classroom I was talking to kept asking questions over and over about Planned Parenthood; finally, he asked something specific about abortion and Planned Parenthood

    o   This kids question had nothing to do with the topic, which was pregnancy control, but rather expressing negative beliefs he had been taught about Planned Parenthood

    Kadeeja Rivers:

    ·      It doesn’t really bother me when people have a problem with what we do, because I believe in what we do and know it’s really important

    Question (to all):  How can MPHA advocate for the topic of healthy teens and sexuality?

    Andrés Alvarez:

    ·      Really, you have to get people comfortable talking about sex with youth

    Kadeeja Rivers:

    ·      It’s really important to talk to teens about the resources available to them and what a healthy relationship looks like

    ·      Also important to correct myths right away

    Nina Jonson:

    ·      We need to advocate for resources for our youth

    ·      Even in the unfavorable situation where comprehensive sex ed may not available to our youth in the schools, we can still advocate for other programs and services in youth development that serve as protective factors for youth; this will also help them make them healthier decisions about sex down the road

    Judith Kahn:

    ·      Strive to be an “askable” adult

    o   Engage youth in conversation

    Nina Jonson:

    ·      Also, it’s OK for adults to admit they don’t know the answer to a question

    Judith Kahn:

    ·      It’s important to know that there are tons of resources available to teens and parents (i.e. Teenwise, Planned Parenthood, the U of M, etc.)

    Statement by Ken Bence, Moderator: 

    ·      Also, funding is a very important issue, and it’s important for MPHA to follow the developments of the Governor’s Budget and advocate for important health funding

    Summary of Key Points by Ken Bence, Moderator:

    ·      Have to know basic needs of teens

    ·      Need to be supportive and help teens understand what is a “healthy relationship”

    ·      Youth need to feel safe

    ·      Cost is a very important issue for youth, important to remember this when dealing with teens and birth control

    ·      The topic of pornography did not come up in this short time, but several audience members had questions about this

    ·      Also, social media and electronic communications are a very important issue for today’s youth; as public health professionals, how can we help youth with this?

    Please save the date for the next Forum:  

    March 29th, 2013 -- Teens and addictive behaviors: What are our teens getting into?

    Time:  7:30-9:00am.  

    Location TBA

    Panelists and participants will discuss issues related to addictive behaviors among teens from tanning to texting to tobacco and some “T’s” in-between. Discussion topics will include tanning (in the sun, tanning booths and spraying), alcohol use, prescription and OTC drug abuse, the rise of designer drugs and the new ways that smoking and tobacco products are present among teen cultures.


  • January 17, 2013 10:08 AM | Anonymous member

    Framing the Future: The Second Hundred Years of Public Health Education Roundtable

    The University of Minnesota School of Public Health invites MPHA members to attend this roundtable and join the discussion on how public health education in the future will affect the community and profession. Donna Petersen, dean, College of Public Health, University of South Florida, will provide keynote remarks and join the panel discussion immediately following her speech. The other panelists are:

    • Jeanne Ayers, assistant commissioner, Minnesota Department of Health
    • Andrew Nelson, executive director, HealthPartners Research Foundation
    • Stella Whitney-West, CEO, NorthPoint Health and Wellness Center
    • Dan Zismer, associate professor and director of the Master in Healthcare Administration Program, School of Public Health

    Friday, Feb. 1, 9-11:30 a.m.
    Coffman Memorial Union Theater

    Learn more and register here.


  • December 21, 2012 2:53 PM | Deleted user

    Minnesota Scored Five out of Ten on Key Indicators in Report on Health Emergency Preparedness


    Majority of States Score 6 or Lower Out of 10 Indicators in Ready or Not?


    Washington, D.C., December 19, 2012 - In the 10th annual Ready or Not? Protecting the Public from Diseases, Disasters, and Bioterrorism report, Minnesota scored 5 out of 10 on key indicators of public health preparedness -- 35 states and Washington, D.C. scored a six or lower.



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