Leader named for health equity center

Odichinma (Odi) Akosionu-DeSouza is the new director of the Center for Health Equity (CHE) at the Minnesota Department of Health. […]

Odichinma (Odi) Akosionu-DeSouza headshot

Odichinma (Odi) Akosionu-DeSouza is the new director of the Center for Health Equity (CHE) at the Minnesota Department of Health. Akosionu-DeSouza took on the new role in mid-January. Part of her career has had a focus on home and community-based services, and on serving people with disabilities. 

“We are excited to have Odichinma join MDH,” said Health Department Assistant Commissioner Halkeno Tura. “She brings a rich background in equity research and translating evidence into effective solutions, and she shares our vision for systems transformation to advance equity. We look forward to adding her knowledge and leadership to our work advance equity across Minnesota.”  

The center was created in 2013 to advance health equity within the Minnesota Department of Health and across the state. 

Prior to joining the state Health Department, Akosionu-DeSouza worked at the Center for Antiracism Research for Health Equity as a project manager and research scholar. She also served as the director of operations for the Research in Color Foundation, leading efforts to support scholars who are interested in pursuing a Ph.D. degree in economics and related fields, with the overarching goal to improve the number of underrepresented scholars within these fields.  

Akosionu-DeSouza is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. Her research focuses on investigating structural factors that result in racial inequities in long-term services and supports, generating population-level research evidence, and working collaboratively toward translating research evidence into effective interventions at the policy level and in long-term care programs and services.  

As part of her academic career, Akosionu-DeSouza worked on state-funded projects to develop a report card system for Minnesota assisted living settings that measures residents’ quality of life and satisfaction, and to identify strategies to reduce health inequities in home and community-based services through a community led-approach.  

Before pursuing her Ph.D., Akosionu-DeSouza worked as a program consultant at the Minnesota Department of Human Services, supporting projects focused on understanding how racial inequities and geography impacts the quality of life and quality of care for people as they age, and for people living with disabilities who receive home and community-based services. 

Akosionu-DeSouza has a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Biology from the University of California, San Diego, and a Master of Public Health degree from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.  

The Center for Health Equity, created in 2013 to advance health equity, has grown dramatically, from about a dozen staff in 2020 to approximately 50 today.

Recognizing this growth and the center’s role in providing support and technical assistance across the agency, the executive office has elevated the Center for Health Equity to a division named the Division of Health Equity Strategy and Innovation.  

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