Credit: Children's Minnesota

About 170 babies are born every day in Minnesota. What determines their health as they grow up depends on a lot of different factors. Regular doctor visits are important, but the majority of what shapes their health depends on circumstances outside the doctor’s office: the conditions where they live, learn and play.

Children’s Minnesota, the largest pediatric health system in the state, is working to improve kids’ health inside and outside their clinics and hospitals. They are expanding their reach into the community by partnering with community groups that also work to help kids thrive. This community work is anchored by a new Children’s Minnesota initiative called the Collective for Community Health.

We caught up with two Children’s Minnesota leaders to learn more about what the Collective is and how it’s making a difference in the lives of children and families.

Marc Gorelick, MD, is president and chief executive officer (CEO) at Children’s Minnesota.

James Burroughs leads the Collective for Community Health and is also senior vice president of government and community relations, and chief equity and inclusion officer at Children’s Minnesota.

The Collective for Community Health launched in the spring of 2022. Tell us a little more about what it is.

Marc Gorelick: We make a bigger difference when we work together; when we’re connected and coordinated. That’s why we launched the Collective for Community Health. The Collective is an anchor for the work Children’s Minnesota does out in the community. This work is imperative, because so much of what determines a child’s health depends on the social circumstances into which they’re born. So, in addition to working inside our clinics and hospitals to help children be as healthy as possible, we work beyond our walls, so kids can thrive no matter where they live.

James Burroughs: We wouldn’t be successful if we did this work alone, so we collaborate with community groups who share similar goals. We partner on efforts and events aimed at improving asthma, mental health, vaccination rates and public safety. We also have a formal process for listening to community members so we know what their needs are, and we’ve launched an ongoing Community Advisory Council to help guide our community initiatives.

Marc Gorelick: Our community work also can’t be confined to a corner somewhere inside Children’s Minnesota. It needs to permeate our entire organization, and it does. For example, we also have an advocacy team that champions policies that benefit children and families. We have a Community Connect team that helps patients address social needs and connects families with resources like food, transportation, housing and legal services through our Healthcare Legal Partnership.

With all this varied work, you can see how our teams might become siloed. The Collective for Community Health keeps our staff and our partnerships with community groups more connected and coordinated, helping us help kids and their families more efficiently and effectively.

What impact is The Collective having so far?

James Burroughs: The Collective is a little over a year old now, but it’s already making a difference. During the 2023 Minnesota legislative session, our advocacy team partnered with community organizations and associations to get policies passed that benefit kids and families — like a new law that gives Minnesota students free breakfast and lunch at school. Kids learn much better on a full stomach. We also helped to successfully advocate for passage of the CROWN Act, which protects Minnesotans of all races and ethnicities against discrimination based on hair texture and style. 

The Collective is partnering with the United Health Foundation and our Children’s Minnesota Health Equity team on a three-year, $3 million grant aimed at addressing pediatric disparities related to asthma, vaccinations and mental health for underserved children and families in the Twin Cities. The initiative will provide culturally responsive health interventions with community partners, as well as local public school districts. The program includes training for school health staff via our Clinic in the Classroom program.

Marc Gorelick: Kids and families in our community are also facing an epidemic of violence, so earlier this year, with the guidance of our trauma team, we joined the Next Step violence prevention program. Next Step is a hospital-based program that connects survivors of violence with resources and support to interrupt the cycle of recurrent violence. These patients and their families have been through a traumatic experience they’ll never forget. Next Step gives them a strong support system to help them heal and move on with their lives.  

Are there any last thoughts about the Collective you’d like to share?

Marc Gorelick: One of our values at Children’s Minnesota is “joining together.” We’re more effective when our Children’s Minnesota teams join with each other, and with like-minded community groups. The Collective helps us do that.

James Burroughs: It’s been a great first year for our Collective for Community Health and our work to help kids and their families thrive. I’m looking forward to many more.

Children’s Minnesota, one of the largest pediatric health systems in the country, is the only health system in Minnesota to provide care exclusively to children, from before birth through young adulthood.