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Thursday August 22nd 2019

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Partnership in developing ways to improve health in the community

By Janice Barbee, Cultural Wellness Center

The Backyard Initiative (BYI) is a partnership between Allina and the community surrounding Allina headquarters (on Chicago and Lake) to develop ways to improve the health of the community. The Cultural Wellness Center engages community residents in Community Health action Teams (CHATs) to generate ideas and strategies that are implemented by residents that will have an impact on personal health and the health of the community.

Community residents began this process by creating their own definition of health. All the CHAT strategies are developed with this definition in mind. The BYI definition of health states that:

  • Health is a state of physical, mental, social, and spiritual well-being. Health is not only the absence of infirmity and disease.
  • Health is the state of balance, harmony, and connectedness within and among many systems – the body, the family, the community, the environment, and culture. Health cannot be seen only in an individual context.
  • Health is an active state of being; people must be active participants to be healthy. Health cannot be achieved by being passive.

In the second half of 2009, residents developed and implemented an assessment process to create a picture of the health of the community.  Residents conducted 21 Listening Circles and 675 residents were interviewed in this process. The projects of the CHATs are informed by the findings of this assessment.

Currently, six CHAT projects have been approved by the Commission on Health, a group of primarily community residents who are also members of a CHAT. The Commission’s work is to monitor the health of the community, build the community’s capacity for taking responsibility for its own health, and support efforts to maintain and improve the health of Backyard residents.

The six projects are:

  • Dakota Language House CHAT: To bring together Dakota people living in the neighborhood around the revitalization of the 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.
  • Food and Nutrition CHAT: To organize and support gardeners and urban farmers in the Backyard area to create and sustain a local food system to provide access to affordable locally grown fruits and vegetables.
  • Out in the Backyard CHAT: To connect gay, lesbian, transgender, and bisexual (GLBT) folks to resources (related to health and wellness and supportive of members of the GLBT community) through a virtual community center.
  • Communications CHAT “Tell Me a Story”: To lessen or eliminate the divide between people who have information and those who don’t. This CHAT will be holding a workshop in November for CHAT participants to learn how to write and submit articles, public service announcements, and/or editorials to The Alley and other media sources.
  • A Partnership of Diabetics (A-POD) CHAT: To provide sustainable, community-based support, strategies, planning and tools to assist us and other members of our community in our diabetes self-management.
  • Did You Know” CHAT: To share health information and support through the system of block clubs in the Backyard, and through the community-building CleanSweep event.

The “Did You Know?” CHAT started a year and a half ago with the desire to help with information collection and distribution in culturally appropriate ways.  From listening to the BYI Assessment Findings they saw that people wanted connectedness, they wanted to hear about things from other people that they’re connected to. They decided to work at the grass roots level to get to know their neighbors and build informal networks through which they can deliver information and support.

The CHAT invited block club leaders from Phillips to a meeting last year to talk about how this CHAT and the block clubs could come together to do more than just National Night Out each year. The 13 block club leaders who attended were very excited at the thought of having a place where they could come and meet regularly to work together and make connections.  The CHAT will continue to work with block club leaders, CUHCC clinic, a City of Minneapolis safety officer, and other partners to get information related to health out to the community.

An example of the kind of health information the block clubs could distribute is about problems with drinking bottled water. As a member of their CHAT stated, “The children of families who are buying drinking water are experiencing a high rate of tooth decay due to the lack of fluoride in the store-bought water.”

The next meetings of the Backyard Initiative are on Thursdays, November 18 and December 16.  All community residents are invited to attend. Call the Cultural Wellness Center at 621-721-5745 for more information.

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