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Minnesota Public Health Association

Since 1907, MPHA has been dedicated to creating a healthier Minnesota through effective public health practice and engaged citizens. 

2021 to 2022 Policy Forum Series:

Local and global: what can we learn from each other?

The four forums we have planned for the 2021-2022 year will be thought-provoking explorations of the challenges we face in our local and global public health efforts.

At this time the forums will be planned as virtual events.  We will continue monitoring available information and will announce the return to in-person forum presentations on the MPHA website. View the 2021-22 series flyer.

Online networking begins 7:45am. Each forum starts promptly at 8:00am and concludes at 9:30am. Please join Minnesota’s public health community in these breakfast conversations.

Thank you to our sponsors! 

May 6, 2022…challenges in a Coordinated Global Response


The final forum of this series will examine the public health response to the local and global public health crises we face. We will ponder together the question, “What can we do better?”

Moderator: Kenneth Bence, MHA, MBA, Past MPHA President 

Kenneth Bence is the Director of Research, Analysis and Policy for the Association of Residential Resources in Minnesota (ARRM), a non-profit association of nearly 200 providers, businesses and advocates dedicated to leading the advancement of home and community-based services supporting people living with disabilities. In this role, he is responsible for creating and maintaining data systems that support ARRM’s legislative agenda and advocacy efforts on behalf of its members. With over 30 years of experience in healthcare and related sectors, he has worked with managed care organizations, state and local public health departments, coalitions, community health improvement partnerships, and non-profit foundations. He has served on several Boards of Directors for non-profit organizations, and is a past president of the Minnesota Public Health Association. Finally, with over 20 years as a paid-on-call firefighter and current Battalion Chief with the Golden Valley Fire Department, he brings a unique public safety perspective to his work.

Panelist: Dr. Halkeno Tura

Dr. Halkeno Tura has over 16 years of professional experience managing public health programs in the US and abroad. He is a researcher, and his research works are published in academic peer-reviewed journals, such as Social Science and Medicine, Global Public Health, and BioMed Central, to list a few. He has also worked as an independent research consultant for local and international organizations.

Dr. Tura designed, implemented, and evaluated community-based public health programs throughout his professional career and has successfully managed multi-million US government, private, and foundation grants. He has extensive experience in implementing and managing health equity initiatives, 7144health equity impact assessment, and mobilizing stakeholders to work together to address social determinants of health. In the last four years, he held positions as Director of Refugee Health Programs, Deputy Director for local Public Health in Iowa, and currently, as the Director for Center for Health Equity with Minnesota Department of Health. 

Dr. Tura holds a Master of Art (MA) in Public Health Education, Master of Public Health (MPH) in Nutrition, and Doctor pf Philosophy (Ph.D.) from the University of Iowa, and he is a also Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES). 

Panelist: Michelle Heerey, MPH

Michelle is Excecutive Director of WellShare Interational. Driven by a vision of a world in which all people and communities have equal opportunities to live a life they love, Michelle Heerey provides a rare diversity of sectoral, geographic and organizational experience, having led partnerships with federal government agencies, universities, large non-profits and local community-based organizations for change both locally here in Minnesota and in over 25 countries around the world. 

Panelist: Murugi Mutiga PhD, MPH

Dr. Murugi Mutiga holds a Master's in Public Health degree and a PhD in Community Nutrition from the University of Minnesota. She has a wealth of experience in both  academia, teaching health and nutrition courses as well as training future Community Health Workers but also within various communities throughout Minnesota, including the founding of the Kenyan Women in Minnesota organization. She has partnered with community-based organizations to address nutrition inequities within the school district in Brooklyn Park.

Dr. Mutiga will be leading the newly formed Community Engagement Team which will work between Public Health & Environment and Community Services Departments. Dr. Mutiga and this team will be responsible for developing and implementing the community engagement program that will expand access to county services and improve the quality and cultural competence of service delivery to directly address community recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic through a health equity lens.

Past MPHA 2021 - 2022 Policy Forum Information 

November 5, 2021…challenges in Education

November's forum panelists and participants will explore the local and global challenges of meeting the educational needs of our populations across the lifespan.  What should be our response to addressing the wide differences in educational achievement that exist? 

Moderator: Tricia Todd, MPH 

Tricia Todd, M.P.H. is the Director of the Pre-Health Student Resource Center at the University of Minnesota and an instructor in the School of Public Health.  She is responsible for the Administrative oversight of the Center that serves the UM system and over 10,000 people a year. She leads the creation of new educational programming and was the lead designer for the Global Ambassadors for Patient Safety online educational module open access tool that gets used by over 7,000 users a year throughout the world  She has also developed multiple global experiences for students with a focus on ethical experiences in pre-health.  With her guidance, the PHSRC has initiated a system-wide task force to identify, reduce and eliminate barriers for students historically under-represented in the health professions and to identify and deliver the support and resources they need for successful matriculation into a health profession. 

Panelist: Ellen Saliares, MPH 

Ellen Saliares, MPH is the Director of Sexuality Education at the Annex Teen Clinic and President-Elect of the Minnesota Public Health Association. She has published peer-reviewed research on adolescent sexuality and has shared her expertise in sexuality education presenting at national events such as SXSWEdu and the National Sexuality Education Conference. She has an MPH in Community Health Promotion from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health and a B.A. in Sociology from Grinnell College. 

Panelist: Elizabeth Allen, PhD, MPH

Dr. Elizabeth Allen is an Assistant Professor at St. Catherine University in their MPH global health program. She holds a master’s degree in environmental health and a PhD in environmental epidemiology. In addition, she completed a post-doctoral fellowship focused on community engaged research methods to advance health equity and justice. Dr. Allen collaborates with students, international non-governmental organizations, and a global network of scholars in her research. Her work focuses on the impact of the environment on social, emotional, physical health.  Current projects include work on community health volunteer models, women’s empowerment in Peru, climate change and domestic violence, and social justice focused education. Dr. Allen teaches courses in Global Environmental Health,  Epidemiology, and Research Methods.

Panelist: Ramona Kitto Stately, Santee Sioux Nation

Ramona Kitto Stately is an enrolled member of the Santee Sioux Dakota Nation. She has a BA in Dakota Art and Culture, and a Masters of Education with an emphasis on Teacher leadership from Augsburg University. After 15 years teaching Indian Education in Minnesota, she is now Project Director for the We Are Still Here Minnesota, creating action for narrative change. Ramona is the mother of two children, an accomplished beadwork artist with moccasins on display in the Science Museum of Minnesota, a part of the scholars' team with of the Minnesota Humanities Center’s for Learning from Place: Bdote and has served as the Chairperson of the Minnesota Indian Education Association since 2016.

January 14, 2022 …challenges in Maternal and Child Health


Our panelists will consider the challenges we continue to face in addressing maternal and child health care needs. Despite efforts to reduce gaps in care locally and globally, the gaps remain. Why? What is the future?

Moderator: Ed Ehlinger, MPHA Past President 

Dr. Ed Ehlinger is a past president of MPHA and former commissioner of health for Minnesota. He is also a past president of ASTHO (Association of State and Territorial Health Officials). He labels himself as a Public Health Metaphysician – someone concerned with understanding the nature of being healthy as individuals, a community, and society along with the conditions that create health.

Panelist: Susan Mason, PhD, MPH

Susan Mason is an Associate Professor in the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. As a social epidemiologist, Dr. Mason's research focuses on the population health impacts of adverse and traumatic experiences, including childhood abuse and neglect, sexual violence, racial segregation, and other forms of violence and social marginalization. These adverse and traumatic experiences are highly prevalent and have impacts on numerous health outcomes of major public health importance. The overarching goal of her work is to advance the evidence base for clinical practice and public health action to prevent these adversities and their negative health impacts.

Panelist: Thia Bryan, MA, IBCLC, Community Health & Well-being Partnership Manager

Thia has been at HealthPartners for over 13 years. She first worked within Well-being Product Management for 9 years, before transitioning to the Community Relations team in 2016. Thia started her career in exercise science, but due to her deep community commitment, transitioned to designing, managing and promoting individual and community well-being solutions and partnerships. She also holds a Master of Arts in Sports and Health Management from the University of San Francisco.  She received her Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) credential in 2016 and currently uses this knowledge to help address perinatal and early childhood disparities and outcomes within communities of color, including as a lead on a state-wide partnership focused on brain development within the first three years of life: the Little Moments Count initiative.  She has continued her learning and has completed trauma-informed practice and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), bias, structural and historical racism trainings, as well as completed a year-long facilitated course on anti-racism and universal design principles. Thia is focused on optimizing access to health and supporting health equity and racial justice within care and community settings.

Panelist: Julia Interrante, MPH

Julia D. Interrante, MPH, is an advanced doctoral student in the Division of Health Policy and Management at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. She holds a BA in Gender Studies and International Relations from the University of Virginia and a MPH in Epidemiology from Emory University Rollins School of Public Health. Her prior work as an epidemiologist at the CDC focused on gender disparities, maternal medication use, and disease surveillance and prevention in both the domestic and international context. Julia currently works as a graduate research assistant at the University of Minnesota Rural Health Research Center on a variety of maternity care projects. Her research examines the effects of reproductive health policies on maternal health outcomes, with specific focus on geographic and racial health equity as well as access to care, and includes topics such as disparities in severe maternal morbidity and mortality, changing access to rural maternity care, and the impact of payment policies on postpartum care.

March 4, 2022…challenges in Food & Nutrition


This forum will explore the local and global challenges of fair and equal access to safe and healthy food. Reliance on food shelves and other safety net organizations is growing. What has worked? What lessons have we learned?

Moderator: Annie Halland

Annie Halland started her career at Health Care for the Homeless in St. Paul, then received her MPH at Boston University with a focus on Health Policy & Management in 2007. Annie began work in building bridges between health plans and public health/social services with a small health plan in Massachusetts, and in her current role as County, Tribal and Public Health Manager at UCare. Annie has been a proud member of Minnesota Public Health Association since 2011 and previously co-chaired the Policy & Advocacy Committee.

Panelist: Katie Bull 

Katie Bull is the Program Manager for Foundation for Essential Needs (FFEN), an entrepreneurial, innovative, and nimble nonprofit focused on increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of local food shelves. In this role, she is responsible for leading the current programming and service development of FFEN's work with food shelves across the state of Minnesota.  FFEN engages skilled, pro-bono volunteers to offer pragmatic, no-cost consultation and equipment improvements to food shelves adapting to meet the changing needs of their community, and is committed to creating a statewide hunger relief sector that ensures equitable access to healthy food through a welcoming and dignified experience for those who receive it. Prior to joining FFEN, Katie held multiple positions in hunger relief at two food banks in Minnesota, Second Harvest Heartland and Northern Lakes Food Bank in Duluth, building food shelf capacity and managing food rescue relationships. 

Panelist: Tina England

Tina England has personally experienced poverty and utilized SNAP.  After serving 4 years in the Navy, she moved to Minnesota to attend college, graduating with a degree in English and Women's Studies.  She was the Executive Director of a small innovative nonprofit operating food shelf, thrift store and diversity outreach programs to Spanish and Somali speaking community members.  In her current role, she conducts outreach, provides application assistance, and co-supervises the Second Harvest Heartland SNAP Outreach Team. Tina comes at this topic with a unique 360° view and a wide range of experience.  

Panelist: Sophia Lenarz-Coy

Sophia Lenarz-Coy is the Executive Director of The Food Group.  She loves her job as it gives her the ability to think creatively, collaborate with amazing community partners, and bring good, culturally connected food where it’s needed most.  Her passion is to work collaboratively to create a more just, equitable food system for all.  That possibility is what brings Sophia to work each day. She has worked in hunger relief her entire career, having re-joined The Food Group as director of programs and operations in 2018. In that role, she embedded equity and systems change, created new strategies for community engagement, and clarified long-term organizational outcomes.  Prior to that, she served as associate director at Hunger Solutions Minnesota, where she worked on federal and state public policy and expanded cross-sector partnerships with healthcare, policy makers, and farmers markets. She also served as a leader for The Food Group’s programs team from 2008 to 2015. 

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