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Health providers and community development organizations invited to work with Back Yard community

By Janice Barbee, Cultural Wellness Center

Looking back over the activities and accomplishments of 2010, the partners of the Backyard Initiative have a lot to celebrate. The residents of the Backyard (Phillips, Powderhorn Park, Central, and Corcoran) and Allina Hospitals and Clinics are creating a new kind of partnership to improve the health of the community.

On December 10, the Cultural Wellness Center and Allina hosted a breakfast for CHAT members and other guests to learn about the Backyard Initiative and meet Dr. David Kindig, Emeritus Professor of Population Health Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, School of Medicine. Dr. Kendig shared Hennepin County’s scores from the County Health Rankings which ranks the overall health of every county in the U.S. (available on www.countyhealthrankings.org). The report, released by the University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is the first of its kind to measure the state of health of a county based on health measures and other key factors that affect health, such as smoking, obesity, binge drinking, access to primary care providers, rates of high school graduation, rates of violent crime, air pollution levels, liquor store density, unemployment rates and number of children living in poverty. A list of such measures, chosen by community residents, could be a tool to help the Backyard residents assess the health of the Backyard community.

Marcus Thygeson, MD, president of the Center for Healthcare Innovation at Allina Hospitals & Clinics (the Backyard Initiative is an initiative of this Center) spoke about the need for a “new frontier” of corporate and community partnership. This partnership is not the traditional “we will help you” model, but listens to the community’s voice, ideas, and self-interests. It’s not about Allina being the experts or knowing best – it’s about honoring all the experts in the room. He said that the BYI is about building capacity to improve the community’s health, and that capacity building needs to be both within the community and within Allina.

Thygeson stated, “We want to build a model where patients are autonomous, co-creators of their own health and that of the systems they are part of, which includes family, community and culture. In order to see true improvements in health, we must find a way to address the social and environmental determinants of health. As health care providers, we can’t do this by ourselves – we must partner with our patients and our community to figure this out together. The Backyard Initiative is part of Allina’s strategy to change the way that we operate. Through the BYI we are gaining new capabilities and tools to support our patients.”

Thygeson and Atum Azzahir, Executive Director of the Cultural Wellness Center, extended an invitation to guests from other health and community development organizations to help change the way health care and corporations relate to and work with community residents, and to the community residents in the room to help change the way community relates to corporations and health care.

Citizen Health Action Teams Working on Health Improvement

Residents of the community have met all year in CHATs (Citizen Health Action Teams) at the Cultural Wellness Center to develop their ideas and strategies for projects that will have an impact on personal health and the health of the community. Allina contributed the funds for these projects, with additional support from Twin Cities LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation).

By the end of 2010, ten CHAT projects have been approved by the Commission on Health, a group of primarily community residents who are also members of a CHAT.

1. Growing Up in the Backyard CHAT: To organize and support gardeners and urban farmers in the Backyard area to create and sustain a healthy, local food system.

2.  Dakota Language House CHAT: The house will be licensed as a group family child care home where up to 14 children will be immersed in the Dakota language.

3.  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.

4.  Communications/Tell Me A Story CHAT: To lessen or eliminate the divide between people who have information and those who don’t. This CHAT held a workshop in November for CHAT participants to learn how to write and submit content to The Alley and other media sources.

5.  A Partnership of Diabetics (A-POD) CHAT: To provide sustainable, community-based support, strategies, planning and tools to assist members of the community in diabetes self-management.

6.  “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.

7.  Anchor Families CHAT: This team is establishing an Anchor Family on three BYI blocks who will actively take responsibility for creating and maintaining a natural network of activities to ensure a sense of belonging for each household. The Anchor Family will organize people in the block, convene gatherings, facilitate communications and create a space for personal sharing of experiences and resources between community members of all ages.

8. Latino/a Environmental Health Begins At Home: This CHAT’s vision is to create a healthier indoor environment for Latino families, build community between Latino families, and build momentum in the community to be a part of the bigger environmental justice movement. The first stage of this effort is to teach Latinas how to make healthy products to clean the home, organize ways to implement what they have learned, and support each other to maintain a healthy environment.

9.  SELF Immigrants Health CHAT: Project SELF (Save, Educate, Liberate, Free) is an Immigrant Health CHAT group that will establish a program called “Nomadic Expressions” which aims to assist youth, elders and families in healthy living and artistic expressions through poetry, open microphone performances, information workshops and community dialogue. These activities will help to bridge the gap between the older and younger community members to encourage healthy relationships through various artistic mediums.

10. Assessment and Evaluation CHAT: This team continues to carry out the assessment, evaluation, and research needs of the Commission. They have two primary roles: 1) To ensure that the CHAT projects and other activities of the BYI are consistent with the vision and mission of the BYI, and 2) to oversee the research process of the Backyard Initiative. This process includes assessment, evaluation and any work that is done to create new knowledge.

All community residents are welcome to attend Backyard CHAT meetings and events. Call the Cultural Wellness Center at 621-721-5745 for more information

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