WILLMAR — A unique form of art is popping up on sidewalks at public locations around Willmar this summer to promote messages about health equity.
The project by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota uses Rainworks, which is activated by rain to reveal messages when wet.
The hidden messages can be found at a number of locations around Willmar, including Robbins Island Regional Park, Bill Taunton Stadium, the Rice Park splash pad and several sites in downtown Willmar. among them the Willmar Public Library, Barn Theatre, Somali Star and Azteca.
The messages are designed to promote awareness and stimulate conversation about the everyday barriers that have an impact on health. Although Minnesota ranks as one of the healthiest states overall in the United States, it also has some of the widest disparities for populations of color.
A study co-authored by Blue Cross and the University of Minnesota estimated that health inequities cost Minnesotans $2.26 billion and 700 lives each year. Surveys also have found that many Minnesotans are unaware that issues such as safe neighborhoods, a living wage and safe affordable housing have an impact on well-being.
“It may be challenging to see the connection between something like discrimination and how healthy a person is, if someone doesn’t face the reality of discrimination every day,” said Dr. Mark Steffen, vice president and chief medical officer at Blue Cross. “Our hope is that these sidewalk displays encourage conversations across Minnesota communities and help illuminate how things like food, safety, income and education impact the health of individuals and communities.”
Willmar residents are invited to share photos of the rain-activated messages in their community on Twitter, using the hashtag #StartSeeingInequity.
Similar Rainworks messages are appearing this summer in St. Paul, Eagan, Aurora, Virginia, Duluth and Winona.