‘Innate negotiator’ devotes his talent to bettering public health

Submitted photo Clarence Jones

Within Minnesota’s healthcare circles, Clarence Jones may be the most connected person in our state—especially when it comes to tackling emerging health crises. 

An advocate for healthier communities for nearly 25 years, Jones helped co-found Hue-MAN, a Twin Cities organization working to solve challenging health issues among our young and middle-aged men, primarily men of color.

Employing a combination of research, community partnerships, and good old-fashioned networking, Jones humbly uses his talent to get results. “For more than 20 years, Clarence Jones has been a trusted partner, advisor and friend,” shared Susan Mau Larson, chief strategy officer at LifeSource. She added, “LifeSource has a dedicated focus on providing education and improving equity in access to organ donation and transplantation, and our partnership with Clarence has resulted in lives saved.” 

We recently had a chance to catch up with Jones to discuss his role at Hue-MAN and where he currently is spending his time and energy.

MSR: Tell us a bit more about your experience growing up in Chicago.

CJ: When I was younger, I had an innate ability to be a negotiator within my community. It was important to be involved, whether it was within the church or other areas where like-minded people came together to better the community.   

I carried that sense of connection to Minnesota, where I attended college. But it wasn’t until I met Dr. Wendy Hellerstedt and Julia Johnson at the University of Minnesota that I realized public health was truly my calling.

MSR: Describe what your organization does and who you primarily serve.

CJ: When people hear the term Hue-MAN, I want them to understand we are a collection of organizations that are truly committed to making our community healthier. While our focus is to address the health disparities among young men, we also work to support the needs of our broader community.  

To date, we have commissioned nearly 30 research papers that have provided critical information back to the community. We have a long track record of making things happen in a very, very positive way.

MSR: As a leader of community outreach for Hue-MAN, where do you spend most of your time?

CJ: In addition to collaborating with our many partners, my job is to work with the resources and the people. I must figure out how we can support and strengthen the community for it to get to the next level. We have an organic approach, where we probe to get the answers we need to get results across the board.

MSR: What health concerns and initiatives are you concentrating on currently? 

CJ: Right now, we are working on projects related to opioids and substance abuse, specifically during pregnancy. I just finished a podcast with Pearl Evans and Dana Farley from the Minnesota Department of Health, which covers the history of prescribing opioids and the impacts to the African American community.  

We are also working on gun violence, where we’ll direct the programming primarily to parents of middle school children, supporting those who have personal experiences or trauma. Unfortunately, there are some very destructive people doing some very silly things that are impacting our children. We as healthcare practitioners must do something different to address this.

MSR: Looking back, where do you think Hue-MAN has made the most impact?

CJ: Over the past 12 years, we have provided more than a quarter of a million free health screenings—from blood pressure to dental to diabetes—for the community, with the help of partners who have a positive history like the University of Minnesota, LifeSource, and Metro State. This type of collaboration allows Hue-MAN to identify and support the needs of our community while connecting our partners directly with the health service people need.

MSR: How can more people get involved?

CJ: We’re inviting the community to attend several upcoming events at both the YMCA and Big Brothers, Big Sisters. We also have a new idea coming soon with the help of our partner, LifeSource, where we plan to host an art fair focused on men’s health. We are also preparing to roll out several new studies to keep the conversation moving forward and help us continue to strengthen our community. 

To learn more about Hue-MAN, visit huemanpartnership.org.