Health Equity Takes Center Stage at Global Minnesota’s World Health Day
Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy. Photo provided by University of Minnesota.

Health Equity Takes Center Stage at Global Minnesota’s World Health Day

Medtronic’s CEO and Michael Osterholm are among the 30 experts set to speak at the April 7 virtual, all-day event.

World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Medtronic CEO Geoff Martha, and Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, will be among the headliners Wednesday at World Health Day Symposium 2021, the annual event hosted—virtually this year—by Global Minnesota. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) established World Health Day in 1950 to mark the organization’s founding and to draw attention to the importance of global health. Each year, WHO chooses a global theme—this year, it’s “Health Equity Locally and Around the World”—and organizations around the world recognize the day. Global Minnesota has held a World Health Day event nearly every year since its founding in 1953. This year, the Minneapolis-based nonprofit  has lined up 30 international, national, and local health care, government, and business leaders to speak on a range of health care, research, and policy issues related to World Health Day’s 2021 theme. The symposium will conclude with a community conversation on health equity. 

The urgency of the conversation, in light of Covid-19, is top of mind for Global Minnesota president Mark Ritchie. “When we face health challenges on a global scale, we look to each other for solutions and inspiration,” he said. “This symposium is about collaboration without borders or any other barriers.” 

Global Minnesota is a nonpartisan nonprofit that offers programs around Minnesota which address relevant and timely international issues, foreign policy, and cultural topics and provide  spaces and opportunities for Minnesotans to engage and discuss.

This year’s local participating organizations and companies include Delta Air Lines, Medtronic, GHR Foundation, Fairview Health Services, M Fairview Health, Hennepin Healthcare, Mayo Clinic, UnitedHealthcare Global, and the University of Minnesota’s Medical School and Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy. Medtronic, another participant, is using the day to announce a $2.5 million, three-year partnership with Children’s HeartLink to address congenital heart disease in children with a focus on reducing disparities in access to care and quality patient outcomes.

“Every child with congenital heart disease deserves access to quality pediatric heart care,” said Paurvi Bhatt, Medtronic Foundation president. “Together with Children’s Heartlink, the Medtronic Foundation is in a unique position to mark World Health Day by ensuring children get equitable care and have the opportunity to survive and thrive.”

Nneka O. Sederstrom, chief health equity officer for Hennepin Healthcare, will speak at 2 p.m. as part of a panel on pandemic preparedness and health equity alongside Leith Greenslade, coordinator for Every Breath Counts Coalition, and Sister Carol Keehan, head of the Health Task Force Vatican Covid-19 Commission. 

“I was happy to receive the invitation to participate in the World Health Day Symposium because this year the focus is on health equity,” said Sederstrom. “Hennepin Healthcare serves communities from many rich and unique cultures, so being part of a global health conversation is definitely where we want to be. This year’s focus on health equity also mirrors our own focus, and we are eager to be part of any discussions centering on how to improve the health outcomes of our populations of color.”

Sederstrom offered a sneak preview of her talk. “I will be speaking on the realities of inequities in Minnesota and how these inequities have played out through Covid-19. I will touch on our efforts to combat the spread of Covid-19 within high-risk populations and why our strategy of directly taking the vaccines into the communities has been so successful. With the imbalance so great, we must be deliberate and intentional in our efforts.”

While Covid-19 will dominate the day’s discussions, the conversations about health equity will reach beyond the scope of the pandemic too. Ritchie said he believes that people in Minnesota and around the world are as ready as ever to address inequity in health care and beyond: “I know it’s at least true in Minnesota—and I also believe it’s true globally—that the [Derek Chauvin] trial that’s underway reminds and lifts into a higher consciousness questions of equity and inequity in general, making a more defined and more action-solution-oriented future than perhaps we’ve had access to in the past.”

Following the symposium, from 5:30 to 7 p.m., Global Minnesota and Minneapolis nonprofit Marnita’s Table are hosting “Engage! Exploring Health Equity 2021.” The virtual conversation, which anyone is welcome to join, will discuss actionable solutions to address health inequities in our local communities. To RSVP to join this Zoom conversation, email 

The World Health Day Symposium is free and open to the public via livestream on Global Minnesota’s YouTube Channel. Register at Click here to view the symposium’s schedule and here to see the full list of speakers.