The Dakota County Board of Commissioners presented the 2022 Public Health Achievement Awards to three recipients Tuesday, April 19 in celebration of National Public Health Week. The winners are Eagan High School's Tobacco-Free Society Student Group, Dr. Tolulope Ola of Restoration for All, and six local agencies partnering as Community Connections to improve COVID-19 pandemic assistance for communities of color.
Eagan High's Tobacco-Free Society is a student group focused on reducing youth commercial tobacco use. The group has given vaping-prevention presentations to students at multiple middle schools in Dakota County. Younger students learn from older peers about vaping's harmful effects to the developing brain. They also learn about the commercial tobacco industry's marketing toward young people, resources to quit vaping and ways to help prevent youth tobacco use.
Ola is founder and executive director of Restoration for All Inc., a nonprofit organization that empowers individuals, organizations and communities to improve their well-being. She is a mental health practitioner with an expertise in public health and the impacts of chronic diseases on immigrants and refugees from Africa. She has helped communities to bring about inclusive social changes through health education and advocacy.
Six community partners worked to engage with historically underserved communities during the pandemic. Community Connections partners are Abria Recovery/Gateway, AG Consulting & Media, Ally Supportive Services, Dakota Child and Family Clinic, Isuroon, and Restoration for All. Their goal was to address disproportionate health and economic impacts of COVID-19 on people of color by:
- Informing residents about COVID-19 and available resources.
- Helping residents to access support programs and services.
- Advising county communication plans to better reach and help communities of color.
Community Connections agencies promoted four COVID-19 vaccine clinics targeted to communities of color. These clinics were quickly started once vaccines were approved and available, including vaccinations for hundreds of children ages 5 and older.
The county board established the Public Health Achievement Awards in 2000 to recognize the work of residents who devote their time, energy and talents to creating a healthy future for all county residents.