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2017 Ramsey County Public Health Award winners announced

Three groups working to address health issues in the community were presented with 2017 Ramsey County Public Health Awards during the April 4 board of commissioners meeting. The awardees were honored for their exceptional contributions to improving the health of individuals, families and communities in the county.

The 2017 Ramsey County Public Health Award winners are:

  • Minnesota Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome’s YouthACT Thundercats, a youth group working to improve outcomes for individuals with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.
  • The Kitty Andersen Youth Science Center at the Science Museum of Minnesota, a program that engages youth in leadership opportunities to use Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) skills to address personal and community health issues.
  • Interfaith Action of Greater Saint Paul’s Department of Indian Work for their efforts to improve the health of the local American Indian Community through the East-Metro American Indian Diabetes Initiative.

Award recipients were selected for their leadership, advocacy, collaboration and work to improve community health in Ramsey County. Nominations for the awards, which are sponsored by Saint Paul – Ramsey County Public Health, were submitted by the public earlier this year. This is the third year public health has recognized individuals and groups for their work.

The award presentation coincides with National Public Health Week, April 3 -9.

View photos from the awards presentation

Additional background on the 2017 winners

Minnesota Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome’s YouthACT Thundercats

Minnesota Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome’s YouthACT Thundercats is a youth group working to improve health, education, employment, housing and criminal justice for individuals with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). YouthACT Thundercats are between the ages of 15 and 25 and include individuals with an FASD and their allies. They are committed to the prevention of FASD and participate in a variety of panels and events to raise awareness of this disability and share their personal stories about living with this condition.

YouthACT Thundercats are committed to building self-advocacy skills as well as advocating for others with an FASD. They have testified at legislative hearings, hosted community meetings, and participated in panel discussions at numerous conferences and high schools across the state. The group provides a youth voice that educates, raises awareness and informs the field of FASD in Minnesota.

FASD is a range of effects that can occur when a developing baby is prenatally exposed to alcohol. FASD can include physical disabilities as well as difficulties with behavior and learning. These conditions are life-long and irreversible. In Minnesota, approximately 7,000 babies are born each year with prenatal alcohol exposure.

The Kitty Andersen Youth Science Center

The Kitty Andersen Youth Science Center (KAYSC) at the Science Museum of Minnesota is an after-school program that engages youth ages 11-25 who have been historically underrepresented in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). Youth in the program are taught engineering and design skills in various STEM fields and encouraged to innovate ideas and solutions to personal and community health issues.

KAYSC youth collaborate with community groups to address health equity issues in a variety of ways. One youth crew studying low-income families’ lack of access to fresh, healthy food, engineered an aquaponics system to grow food indoors during Minnesota’s cold winters. With further research, they found residents weren’t aware of places nearby where they could buy fresh, healthy food, so they developed a food access map app with information and recipes to promote healthy eating and cooking.

Another KAYSC youth crew worked with community partners to study barriers to transit use in the Frogtown neighborhood. The youth canvassed thousands of homes and analyzed hundreds of data points to determine the best ways to educate the community about transit options. Their creative solutions included more visible bike racks, spoken word poems, a community mural, and an “Open Mic on a Trike” bicycle they engineered with a portable speaker for use at block parties.

Interfaith Action of Greater Saint Paul’s Department of Indian Work

Interfaith Action of Greater Saint Paul’s Department of Indian Work has led efforts in Ramsey County to improve the health of the local American Indian community through the East-Metro American Indian Diabetes Initiative (EMAIDI).  The initiative brings together multiple partners to work collaboratively to address health disparities among American Indians who are more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with — and more than four times as likely to die from complications of — diabetes compared to Caucasians.

Over the last year, community partners working on EMAIDI have yielded multiple successes. Participants in the Family Education Diabetes Series have shown positive behavior changes with resulting improvements in weight, blood pressure and blood sugar/glucose levels. A men’s center group has been the catalyst for increased physical activity, healthy eating alongside with increased social support and culturally valued activities. Native youth were engaged in a new group that offers leadership development and creates a network to learn and establish pathways towards healthy living.

A diabetes school education curriculum was adapted to focus on Medicine Wheel philosophies of “walking in balance” — mind, body, spirit and community. American Indian students created personal digital stories about what contributes to healthy living and participated in a day-long traditional lacrosse event and a 5K. 

Posted on Tuesday, April 4, 2017 - 9:44 a.m.