Beyond Funding: A Case for the Power of People to Advance Health Equity

Nov 8, 2021 9:00 AM ET
Article

A global pandemic and social unrest underscored the reality of health inequities around the globe. Now, communities, companies and individuals ask: What can we do to help? 3M Health Care is partnering with community-based organizations and academic institutions to address health equity and help more people get the resources they need to thrive. Those partnerships are powered by one of 3M’s greatest assets – its people.

Get to Yes

When an opportunity to address oral health equity in Minnesota surfaced, 3M Health Care teams took action. According to the Minnesota State Oral Health Plan, many Minnesotans suffer from dental diseases and oral conditions due to limited access to oral health services and dental insurance. A public policy to increase access to these critical services was needed.

"Thousands of diverse children and families, people with disabilities and frail elders are suffering in silence with untreated infections in their mouths,” says Dr. Michael Helgeson, CEO of Apple Tree Dental.

In the winter of 2020, John Pournoor, director of 3M Government Affairs, along with 3M Oral Care and 3M Health Care team members, partnered with a Minnesota coalition of 12 dental organizations and dental safety net clinics. They collectively called themselves “Get to Yes” – named after a concept coined by the Harvard Negotiation Project and a book of the same name. Their goal? Convince state legislators to say “yes” to better access to dental care for marginalized Minnesotans.

Convincing key decision makers to say “yes” to new ideas can be tricky, even when the research is compelling and concrete. Knowing how to craft and share your story is central to advocacy. John guided the Get to Yes team through the classic playbook for public policy and advocacy – helping them translate their knowledge to statements of public value and pinpoint influential leaders whose communities would be positively impacted by the proposal and could champion the Get to Yes team’s goals. Together, the team prepared a whitepaper and a series of highly customized legislative communications and asks using the playbook.

Through that impactful partnership with the 3M team, Get to Yes secured a $61 million increase in funding from the state legislature for Minnesotans on Medicaid. Per Medicaid policy, the federal government matches state costs with federal dollars, which will further increase funding. This work will help hundreds of thousands of historically marginalized Minnesotans gain access to critically needed dental care.

The power of public value and advocacy around the world

"I’ve been active in health policy for 30 years and I had no idea the power of the 3M way of winning hearts and minds of policy makers,” says Sheila Riggs, Chair of the Department of Primary Dental Care at the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry.

John points out that advocacy is not unique to 3M or the healthcare sector; it’s an essential part of communicating with policymakers – and it happens around the globe.

No matter where you are in the world, statements of public value of health show how we can improve lives and elevate the message. Communities and countries will collectively decide what matters most – and implement policies to support those public policies. If you explain why your idea will improve public health and life, you’ll have a greater chance of showing alignment with those public policies and achieving success.

“Let’s say you're working in a developing country – healthcare policy may mean making sure everybody in the country has access to better chronic care, so morbidity and mortality is lowered. Priorities and goals change depending on the country’s stage of development, breadth of needs, human and material resources available,” John explains.

Coming together for good

3Mers have long known that, with creativity, collaboration and a shared sense of purpose, no problem is unsolvable. A solutions-based mindset lies at the heart of 3M’s culture and inspired 3M Impact: the global skills-based service program that empowers 3Mers to do what they do best – make an impact. 3M Impact Health Care, an arm of 3M Impact that focuses on addressing healthcare disparities, was born in 2021, and Get to Yes was a result of this pilot program. The U.S. launch of Get to Yes was met with internal and external acclaim and the 3M Impact Health Care program will expand globally in 2022.

Collaboration, community and purpose-driven work are worth celebrating – but the outcomes often speak for themselves.

“We now believe we will change the trajectory of access and disease for a generation of Minnesotans,” says Dr. Sheila Riggs.