The day-to-day work that goes on at the Minnesota Department of Health’s laboratories boosts newborn health, monitors water quality, safeguards food and detects germ invaders. Regrettably, many Minnesotans are unaware of how vital the staff’s contributions are in defending the quality of life that we enjoy.

But a new communications initiative from the department is a welcome step toward raising awareness about this world-class resource. It’s now possible to take a video tour of what’s known as the Public Health Laboratory to learn more about scientists and machines on the front lines of public health. Health officials recently announced the virtual tour’s debut. It’s available on YouTube at

While the number of viewers is chugging along, this accessible overview of the work that goes into making Minnesota a healthy state deserves a much broader audience. The tour begins with a brief introduction of what’s done in St. Paul. But when that finishes, stay tuned. There are three more videos to come, each highlighting the three main laboratory sections — environmental, infectious diseases and newborn screening.

Those expecting to see test tubes, petri dishes and high-tech machines will not be disappointed. Minnesota’s labs are well-equipped and well-run. The anodyne background music and soothing narrator’s voice might spark memories of classroom films shown to elementary students, but those elements add to the charm.

There are plenty of facts for the curious. The environmental division, for example, handles more than 40,000 samples a year, with results helping to determine that drinking water and the water Minnesotans swim in meet federal standards. The infectious disease lab works to detect antibiotic-resistant bacteria, foodborne pathogens and vaccine-preventable diseases. The newborn screening lab is where those newborn bloodspot tests are sent to detect disorders that can cause serious health problems. These conditions are flagged in about 450 newborns a year.

“Every sample that makes its way through the labs tells a story about the health of Minnesota,” the narrator says. The critical role these labs play in Minnesotans’ well-being merits this video salute. The handful of minutes required to watch is time well spent.