Minnesota’s Game Plan for Super Bowl LII Ensures the Public’s Health and Safety

March 15, 2018|1:10 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Jan MalcolmJan Malcolm is commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Health, where she previously served as commissioner from 1999-2003. Prior to her second appointment in January 2018, Malcolm was an adjunct faculty member at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. She has also worked as a senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, president of the Courage Kenny Foundation, and vice president of public affairs and philanthropy at Allina Health. She is a graduate of Dartmouth College.

With the Twin Cities playing host to the Super Bowl last month and the Winter Olympics recently concluding in PyeongChang, ASTHO spoke with Malcolm about her career, coordinating statewide preparedness activities, and what it takes to ensure the public’s health and safety during big events. 

How did your career in public health begin? 

I was a pre-med major in college and became fascinated with health policy. I spent the first half of my career focusing on healthcare finance, as well as access in healthcare delivery systems and health plans. And even though I didn’t know much about the public health field per se, I was interested in the difference healthcare access made in population health. As I gradually began to work with public health agencies on community collaboration, I started to see what I was missing. Then, in 1999, I was appointed commissioner—for the first time—of the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and received a world-class education in public health and what it does by working with colleagues in MDH, our local public health partners, and national colleagues through ASTHO.

How has public health changed during your time in the field? 

The focus on performance measures and continuous improvement through accreditation and other tools is a big deal. Even our best legislative champions need to see the rigor in what we do and how we measure our impact on the public’s health. The social determinants framework and our focus on Health in All Policies, as well as cross-sector collaborations, are also big game changers. One thing that hasn’t changed is the challenge of communicating the value of prevention. The better it works, the more invisible it is!

How was MDH involved in preparedness planning to ensure the health and safety of those attending this year’s Super Bowl in Minneapolis?

MDH was part of a great team working to ensure that the Twin Cities was prepared to host a safe, fun, and healthy Super Bowl LII. The team included officials from many federal and state agencies, city and county governments, law enforcement, as well as partners from the private sector. This group began planning and coordinating months in advance, shifting into round-the-clock work as game day approached.

MDH supported the work of local public health—especially the Minneapolis Health Department—with the development of a health and medical branch created as part of the larger planning effort. The health and medical branch consisted of four subcommittees:

  • Surveillance – This subcommittee focused on supporting activities for the BioWatch program and on increasing standard health surveillance, particularly reaching out to hotels.
  • Medical Surge – This subcommittee addressed anticipated needs for medical service, particularly detox. Part of this work included finding an alternative space for detox patients as emergency rooms were already working with limited space.
  • Consequence Management – This subcommittee prepared for significant events, such as a large facility fire, mass dispensing of urgently-needed medication, and family reunification and assistance.
  • Food Inspections – This subcommittee looked at how to deal with intentional contamination of food and beverages and provided training on sex trafficking identification.

In addition, MDH emergency response personnel helped staff the emergency operations center, centralizing operations and crisis response while our communications team helped staff the joint information center established to provide a one-stop source for event-related information for media and the public.

What leadership qualities or resources do you believe health officials need to effectively coordinate statewide preparedness activities?

Strong communication, a commitment to partnerships, and an insistence on lots of practice!