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Tuesday August 20th 2019

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Teams are “Planting the Seeds” to “Grow Health”

by Janice Barbee, Cultural Wellness Center

Community Health Action Teams are “Planting the Seeds’ to Grow Health
Residents who live in the Backyard area (East Phillips, Ventura Village, Phillips West, Midtown Phillips, Powderhorn Park, Corcoran, and Central neighborhoods) have been meeting monthly in Citizen Health Action Teams (CHATs) to develop their strategies to improve the health of residents. The Backyard Initiative was initiated by Allina Hospitals and Clinics in the fall of 2008. What was once a project led by Allina is now a community-owned project in which Allina is a major partner.
At the July meeting, several CHATs presented an update of their work.

Food and Nutrition CHAT: They are responding to the need for people to have access to healthy, local food. They are bringing together vegetable gardeners, people who want to grow vegetables, and people interested in the food system to work together to produce food for the community. The team is now planning a series of community meetings to gather people’s ideas.

Comments from Backyard community participants:

  • Fabulous, great, wonderful.
  • It’s not just about food, it’s about actively involving community in producing something for themselves.
  • I think what you’re doing is giving the community power over their own food system. Corporations own our food system. And also teaching people to love Mother Earth.
  • Major health problems are created by “food deserts.” In many places people have to go miles in order to get healthy food. Here you have fast food and convenience stores, not healthy food. Looking at this will show people how to [produce healthy food that] won’t be expensive and people won’t get fat [eating it].

Dakota Language: They are developing a Dakota Language House to bring together Dakota people living in the neighborhood around the revitalization of their language and culture. The house will be licensed as a Group Family Child Care Home where up to 14 children will be immersed in the Dakota language. They talked about how the language carries all the teaching, all the philosophical grounding on which they stand. Their ceremonies were made illegal until 1978 and three generations of Dakota went through a very difficult time where their language almost died. In Minnesota there are only eight fluent Dakota speakers left. There are initiatives now to bring the language back which is so important because the symptoms of all this loss are showing up in diabetes and other diseases.

Elder Phoebe Iron Necklace said, “If we can have our children hearing the language and then work with the families, they will have that foundation that the language gives them and how to function in society. When we have our voice again, that will bring hope to the other communities. In our language we say ‘we’re all related.’ Kinship is a really important part of the language. We can never detach from our community or we become ill. Since it is about language, it is about culture. As we reclaim our culture we will be able to take responsibility for our own health in a way that goes back to our teachings.”

Comments from community participants:

  • Each sound has a frequency that will help jump-start your cells. When you bring these frequencies back to the mold everything will jump start – trees, everything. This is how we all benefit.
  • I can certainly connect with what you have said, especially regarding the Ethiopian community. For me with kids here, born here, losing the language and the culture – for most of us it is sad for us. We elders like to keep our original culture and language. We feel that when we have language we can connect to each other.
  • When one community is building itself, it’s very healthy for the community as a whole.
  • I get this feeling like going to the house of someone who is ill where you are the guest…The health of the shepherds of this land is important – if they are well, it will improve the health of the people who are the guests. It will improve your sense of well-being. You don’t have to walk around with a sense of guilt and thievery.

Out in the Backyard: This CHAT is developing a website where GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender) folks can go to connect with health resources, such as GLBT-sensitive doctors, clinics, and counselors. There will be volunteers available for on-line communication to help answer questions and give support. The CHAT will also be doing community organizing to get more input into what is needed. They will connect with other organizations to support the health of the GLBT community.

Comments from community participants:

  • What I see is people who are homophobic are not actually connected to people who are GLBT… Instead of looking at how can we all come together as people and respect and embrace each other….[there is] this reactionary thing of the two sides putting each other down.
  • I see the benefits of this in terms of building connectedness and relationships.
  • If you have a great idea to improve the community’s health that involves community residents working together, please come to the next CHAT meeting. You may also join one of the 14 existing CHATs.

Call the Cultural Wellness Center, 612-721-5745, for more information.

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