Public Health awards given to Verne Wagner and Diabetes Prevention Program partners

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Public Health & Human Services Dept. • 320 West Second Street, Suite 605 • Duluth, MN 55802
Phone: (218) 726-2096 •

Linnea Mirsch




April 4, 2017

CONTACT: Dana Kazel, Communications Manager

218-725-5049 (office) • 218-591-2219 (cell)

St. Louis County Board presents Public Health Achievement Awards 

St. Louis County Public Health and the Board of Commissioners presented their second annual Public Health Achievement Awards - one to an individual, and the other to a collaborative effort. The awards were presented during the County Board meeting today in Duluth.


The awards recognize groups and individuals who partner with the County to improve public health. The public was invited to submit nominations, which were judged based on the following criteria: leadership, public health contributions, community health improvement, collaboration and advocacy.


This year's honorees include Verne Wagner, and the National Diabetes Prevention Program Team, a partnership between Essentia Health and the Duluth Area and Mesabi Family YMCAs.

Wagner was recognized for his unwavering commitment to ending the opioid crisis in our region. he has dedicated countless volunteer hours to the Opioid Abuse Response Strategies (OARS) work group and has been a key individual in initiating and planning the upcoming Opioid Summit in May.  Wagner also leads Nar-Anon in Duluth, supporting families who struggle with loved ones who are addicted to substances. 


Also recognized was the Duluth Area Family YMCA, Mesabi Family YMCA, Essentia Health-Duluth and Essentia Health-Virginia for their work in preventing chronic diseases in St Louis County. Essentia Health has been a regional leader in supporting the expansion of the National Diabetes Prevention Program (NDPP)  and assuring that the program is offered in the community, by the community, and free of charge. Essentia and the YMCAs have partnered in Duluth and on the Range to offer the NDPP directly in neighborhoods. The Duluth and Mesabi Family YMCAs utilize their facilities and expertise to help community members make sustained lifestyle changes. The Ys have trained their staff as NDPP lifestyle coaches and are working to become recognized by the CDC’s Diabetes Prevention Recognition Program. Between the partners, nearly 150 participants have attended the program since 2015. 

It's been documented that Diabetes is one of the leading causes of pre-mature death in St Louis County and beyond. One in three St Louis County adult residents has pre-diabetes and nine out of 10 of those people don’t know it. Type 2 diabetes is preventable, and participants in the NDPP can cut their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 58 percent.  

The awards were presented to coincide with National Public Health Week, which runs April 3-9, 2017.

Public Health Achievement Awards

Coinciding with National Public Health Week, St. Louis County presented its second annual Public Health Achievement Awards. Shown, L-R, are: 

(Kneeling): Commissioner Keith Nelson and Auditor Don Dicklich

(Standing): Jeremy Katchuba, Duluth Area Family YMCA; County Administrator Kevin Gray; Chris Francis, Duluth Area Family YMCA; Public Health Division Director Amy Westbrook; County Attorney Mark Rubin; Commissioners Mike Jugovich, Tom Rukavina and Frank Jewell; Jean Larson, Essentia Health; Ron Alston, Essentia Health; Alisha Bradley, Duluth Area Family YMCA; Commissioner Beth Olson, Emily Ranta, Duluth Area Family YMCA; Dr. Tim Zager, Essentia Health; Becky Zubich, Mesabi Family YMCA; Verne Wagner, Nar-Anon.