Healthy You Healthy Hennepin

Mother holding child with Minnesota state outilne overlayed

Annual report 2023

February 2024



Message from the director

While COVID remains an important public health issue, it no longer dominates our day-to-day work. In 2023 we were able to apply the lessons we learned during the pandemic to strengthen our department and better serve the current and future health needs of the people of Hennepin County.

In this report, we share examples of some of the steps we’ve taken to broaden and enhance our skills, services and partnerships. We are highlighting the work of innovative new teams, like the Long-Term Care Infection Prevention, and Community-based Infectious Disease teams.

We are also proud to share some of our accomplishments and accolades, including the Mental Health Center’s new designation as a Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic, and several of the national awards we’ve received for work ranging from comprehensive sexual education to data driven improvements in our lifesaving Syringe Services Program.

The stories included in this annual report are not comprehensive of our work, but I hope they provide insight into why I have been so proud to lead this department over the past 11 years. I will be retiring in April 2024, and while I will miss the work and the people, I believe the next public health director is stepping into the leadership of a strong, innovative, and future-oriented health department.

Thanks for making time to read Hennepin County Public Health’s 2023 highlights!

Susan Palchick, PhD, MPH
Hennepin County Public Health director



The links, below, represent sections of the report. Scroll down to continue reading the report, or click on any of the links to go directly to that section.

Rapidly responding to infectious disease outbreaks

Creating birth justice

Keeping patients healthy in long-term care facilities

Improving mental health care coordination

Improving access to health care for kids and teens


By the numbers infographic

About us and our community


Thanks for making time to read Hennepin County Public Health’s 2023 highlights!



Rapidly responding to infectious disease outbreaks

The Community-Based Infectious Disease team — a new team created in our department in 2022 — serves as a rapid, first response during health crises. Beyond COVID, Hennepin County Public Health has responded to several infectious disease outbreaks such as Hepatitis A, measles, and tuberculosis that have required mobilization. The team was created as a resource to be ready and available for future outbreaks. Their adaptability also allows them to fill staffing gaps across the department when not responding to a public health emergency.

Since its recent formation the team has jumped in to help manage responses such as Mpox (monkeypox), COVID vaccinations, and our ongoing efforts to address the HIV outbreak among individuals experiencing homelessness and injection drug use. Beyond outbreak management, the Community-Based Infectious Disease team conducts screenings for HIV and STDs. It has reached over 370 people at various community locations and encampments and successfully connected people to treatment and care.

The team’s approach strengthens our health department’s ability to respond to outbreaks of infectious diseases. Their role reflects Hennepin County Public Health’s commitment to adaptability, innovation, and proactive public health practices. The team is planning for continued growth and community engagement, and they aim to address high rates of Hepatitis C, syphilis, and HIV in disproportionately affected communities.

Learn more

Read: Responding to HIV outbreak among people who inject drugs

Healthcare worker collecting COVID sample from patient.



Creating birth justice

Black and American Indian people suffer poor maternal health outcomes at higher rates than White people. This includes significant disparities in maternal deaths, as well as higher rates of heart attacks strokes, and blood clots during pregnancy. Current and historical racism contribute to maternal health disparities and harm Black and American Indian people, their loved ones, and their communities. Equity in maternal health is imperative to the health of the overall community.

For these reasons, Hennepin County Public Health started the Maternal Health Initiative, and Birth Justice project.

Birth Justice means Black and American Indian birthing people and their families are empowered in all stages of the birth process. This includes the prenatal, pregnancy and postpartum stages as well as being able to make decisions and have healthy outcomes for themselves, their babies and their communities.

To achieve this, the Birth Justice Collaborative was formed. It is led by community members, providers, and organizations involved in Black and American Indian maternal health.

In 2023, the collaborative created the Birth Justice Strategic plan, which Hennepin County and its partners are using as a guide to address and advance Black and American Indian maternal health. The strategic plan uses community-led solutions to help Black and American Indian families be empowered in all stages of the birth process.

The Birth Justice Strategic plan outlines recommendations, strategies and the outcomes that the community would like to see, including:

  • Improvements in birth outcomes and the birth experience within the health care and other systems as reported by families
  • Behavior changes among providers and systems that improve birth experiences as reported by families
  • Increased access for families to cultural supports and resources both pre- and postpartum.

The Maternal Health Initiative is an important example of how our department is working in partnership with communities to find solutions to improve their health and well-being.

Learn more

Read: Maternal Health Initiative

Read: Creating Birth Justice

Artwork of various Black women with inspirational words like encourage and strong together.



Keeping patients healthy in long-term care facilities

Elderly people were at greatest risk for becoming seriously ill and dying during the COVID-19 pandemic. While scientists and public health experts worked to understand the disease, cases spread rapidly throughout long-term care facilities nationwide.

Respiratory infections are among the most common infections acquired in long-term care facilities and they spread easily in those settings, according to David Johnson, the manager of the Long-Term Care Infection Prevention program at Hennepin County Public Health.

“We started by helping facility staff better understand their infection control needs and how we could provide resources,” Johnson said. The team includes Jen Malewicki, who coordinates outreach and educational opportunities for facilities and Linn Warnke, who helps long-term care facilities improve their infection prevention practices. The team helps long-term care facility employees understand what’s working well in their facilities and where they can improve. The team also provides tailored resources to increase the confidence of facility employees to implement best practices.

Health care-associated infections in long-term care facilities account for 1.6 million to 3.8 million infections and 388,000 deaths nationwide each year, according to the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The infections are costly for long-term care facilities, which spend up to $137 million for medication to treat infections and up to $2 billion on hospital costs each year.

The program is an important example of how Hennepin County Public Health is taking lessons learned during the pandemic and applying them to other illnesses. Doing so will help the department prevent and respond to future outbreaks effectively, and the team hopes it will strengthen community health.

Learn more

Read: Long-Term Care Infection Prevention Program.

Nurse with elderly patient



Improving mental health care coordination

In September 2023, the Mental Health Center (MHC) secured state certification as a Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC). To receive this certification, they had to improve how they coordinate care for clients. Meeting over 130 standards, the Mental Health Center made many changes to their rules and procedures to match the certification requirements. Manager Sally Kratz viewed it as “an exercise of getting rid of old policies and procedures to streamline pathways for clients.”

The Mental Health Center hired new care coordinators, a peer recovery specialist, and more therapists and prescribers. With these new team members and updated policies, getting mental health services became much faster for people of all ages. Instead of waiting months, some could now get an appointment the same day or the next.

With the new certification, the Mental Health Center now gets a higher reimbursement rate for patients with Medicaid, which helps cover costs for clients who don't have insurance or have limited coverage. This new way of organizing care, focusing on care coordination, will benefit the people who use their services and increase their capacity to see more patients.

The need for mental health services continues to grow in Hennepin County, and the Mental Health Center is committed to providing those services. In 2024, they plan to offer outpatient care for both mental health and substance use disorders, Medication-Assisted Treatment, Medications for Opioid Use Disorder, and more group therapy options. The Mental Health Center will continue to implement improvements to better serve county residents.

Learn more

Visit: Mental Health Center | Hennepin County

Group therapy session



Improving access to health care for kids and teens

In fall 2023, Child and Teen Checkups encouraged clients to schedule medical and dental appointments to stay up to date with their kid's health for the back-to-school season. To reach a wider audience within the program population, Child and Teen Checkups worked with an ad agency to place ads on Google, Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook. As part of the campaign, a local social media influencer interviewed a staff member. The campaign also included print ads in various newspapers, and it ran from October 5 to December 24, 2023. During the campaign period, the program saw an increase in website traffic and call volume compared to non-campaign months.

Routine appointments are important for maintaining health and the prevention and management of disease and illness. Hennepin County Public Health programs such as Child and Teen Checkups work to increase access to health care and ensure that children and adolescents receive appropriate preventive, dental, developmental, mental health and specialty services including vaccines. Child and Teen Checkups makes it easier for families to take charge of their health from finding providers and assisting with making appointments to removing barriers such as transportation so families can get to those appointments.

Learn more

Visit: Child and Teen Checkups | Hennepin County

Mother and daughter in hijabs, hugging. Text overlay reads Free annual health checkups for children and teens




In 2023 we received recognition from the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), the National Association of Counties (NACo), and the Minnesota Association of Government Communicators.

NACCHO Model Practice Award: Health Mentor Model
Our adolescent health team, Better Together Hennepin, won a Model Practice Award from NACCHO for their development of the Health Mentor Model. The Health Mentor Model places a full-time sexual health educator called a health mentor in schools. Watch a 3-minute video.

NACCHO Model Practice Award: Community-Based Infectious Disease Team
Hennepin County Public Health’s Community-Based Infectious Disease (CBID) Team won a Model Practice Award for preparing rapid, effective, and culturally competent response to emerging infectious disease outbreaks. Watch a 3 ½ -minute video.

NACCHO Model Practice Award: Data-Driven Syringe Services and Naloxone Distribution  
The Syringe Services Program at the Henenpin County Public Health Clinic won a Model Practice Award for its data-driven approach to providing harm reduction services. Watch a 3 ½ -minute video.

NACCHO Project Public Health Ready Recognition: Emergency Preparedness and Response
NACCHO and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention created Project Public Health Ready, a training and recognition program that assesses local health departments’ abilities to plan for, respond to, and recover from public health emergencies. The Hennepin County Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response team has received this recognition every 5 years since 2005. Hennepin County is the only jurisdiction in Minnesota to receive this recognition.

NACo Achievement Award: Public Health’s Response to Mpox
Hennepin County Public Health received a 2023 Achievement Award for its rapid response to the 2022 Mpox (monkeypox) outbreak. Read more about the response and the recognition.

Minnesota Association of Government Communicators recognizes Mpox communications campaign
In 2023, Hennepin County Public Health received a Northern Lights award in the crisis response category for implementing a targeted communications response to the 2022 Mpox outbreak. Read more and see some of materials produced for the campaign.

Hennepin county employees receive ciommunication award for mpox crisis response



By the numbers

  • Number of people who received comprehensive HIV services thanks to our Ryan White program: 3,924
  • Number of students reached with high quality, evidence-based, comprehensive sex-education through Better Together Hennepin: 5,487*
  • Number of HIV tests 12,063
  • Percent of 2-year-olds enrolled in Baby Tracks who were up-to-date on vaccinations: 90.6%
  • Number of opioid overdoses reversed by nalaxone kits given out by the Public Health Clinic: > 1,100
  • Number of food inspections conducted by Environmental Health: 4,889

Graphic of by the numbers data



About our residents


  • Hispanic/Latino — 7.7%
  • American Indian/Alaska Native — 0.9%
  • Asian — 7.6%
  • Black/African American — 13.4%
  • White — 66.7%
  • Two or more race — 7.1 %
  • Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander — 0.04%
  • Other — 4.2%

Educational attainment

  • High school graduate or higher — 93.9%
  • Bachelor’s degree or higher — 53.5%


  • Median household income — $84,244
  • Residents below 100% of the federal poverty line — 9.7%


  • Languages other than English spoken at home (population age 5 years or older) — 17.0%


  • 1,281,565

Infographic of about our residents section

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