NEWS & VIEWS OF PHILLIPS SINCE 1976
Thursday September 24th 2020

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A Community and Institution Partnership to Improve the Health and Health Care Experience of the Residents of the “Backyard” Area

By Janice Barbee, Cultural Wellness Center

The partners in the Backyard Initiative all see the partnership itself as a major accomplishment of the Initiative.

The Partnership Consists of Two Partners:

Atum Azzahir is the Executive Director of the Cultural Wellness Center, the community organization that is charged with engaging residents in the Backyard Initiative. She and her staff facilitate the meetings and support the work of the teams of residents in their health improvement projects, called Citizen Health Action Teams (CHATs). She states that the partnership between Allina and the community around Allina headquarters (the “Backyard”) is nothing short of “revolutionary.” She says she often hears community residents express their appreciation and gratitude for what Allina has learned through this partnership and for staying at the table.

The partnership consists of Allina Hospitals and Clinics, the Cultural Wellness Center, Hope Community, Portico, and the residents of the neighborhoods around Allina headquarters, including the four neighborhoods of Phillips, Powderhorn Park, Central, and Corcoran. What stands out in everyone’s mind is the way a major health institution has listened to and supported the leadership of community residents as they take responsibility for their health and the health of the entire community.

Community residents often quote what Ellie Zuehlke, Allina’s Director of Community Benefit said at a community meeting: “Pretty early in the initiative, there was a fundamental shift away from viewing the community as being in Allina’s “Backyard” to recognizing that Allina is in the backyard of this community. Along with that, we realized that the work is not about improving the health of the community, but rather acting as a resource in a way that helps community residents to improve their own health.”

2011 Accomplishments as a Result of This Partnership 

Following is a list of some of the accomplishments for 2011 recently reported on by the Cultural Wellness Center:

  1. The 15 Citizen Health Action Teams (CHATs) of the Backyard held 173 activities in 2011. Over 1200 people participated in these community and health building activities. The action plans of five of these teams were approved by the community’s Commission on Health in 2011.
  2. The 15-part plan to improve the physical, mental, social, and spiritual well-being of the BYI community also began to function as the “Community Care-Giving System” of the BYI community. They built a sense of working as a community, for the benefit of all, rather than just in their own interest as a CHAT.
  3. The BYI CHATs and the BYI Commission on Health came to consensus with key mental health care providers at Allina that the Community Care-Giving Model of the Backyard Initiative will be developed and first implemented in the focus area of mental health.
  4. The BYI’s Community Resource Body was formed, facilitated by the Cultural Wellness Center. This body, with representation from other health care, economic development, and research institutions, serves to increase support for the BYI and promote the initiative locally and nationally.
  5. The Backyard Initiative Community Assessment Team formed an Evaluation Team consisting of a staff person from the CWC, the Assessment Team’s evaluation fellow, and two evaluators contracted by Allina. This team met with the five CHATs that had reached their one-year anniversary of working together on their health improvement projects and helped them to evaluate themselves based on the values and principles named by the Assessment Team. This team also helped to draw out the learning from the experiences of the CHATs that will benefit other CHATs and the entire initiative as it continues its work.
  6. The systems of operating and accountability in the partnership were strengthened. The BYI partners articulated and implemented standards and principles for operating in a partnership between an institution and an empowered community. The BYI Commission established policies and practices for recognizing the financial, social, and cultural capital with the CHATs and within the Commission. The BYI also developed a system of checks and balances which assures that CHATs’ spending is transparent and in keeping with their approved action plan.
  7. The Cultural Wellness Center trained 45 community members in the CWC model of engaged community leadership, a model approved by the CHATs to create a group of leaders who will mobilize community residents to support each other.
  8. The Backyard Initiative received increased recognition and awareness. In addition to the monthly articles in this community newspaper, the Twin Cities’ Daily Planet and the national newsletter of Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) ran articles on the BYI.

CHAT Accomplishments

The five CHATs which completed their one year of community work produced a long list of achievements. Some of the highlights are:

  • The Dakota Language Revitalization CHAT held a language immersion daycare and 24 moccasin making classes which created a space for Dakota people to reconnect to their cultural ways maintaining well being.
  • Two pilot Anchor Families established themselves on their blocks in the Powderhorn Park and Central neighborhoods to connect neighbors with each other across age, culture, and language. As neighbors began to know each other they felt safer on their block and began to share resources and skills.
  • A Partnership of Diabetics (A-POD) CHAT held regular “meet-ups” throughout the year where diabetics provided support for each other and shared stories and information with additional support from a health professional. Their members showed improvement in key areas for diabetes management such as weight control, and improved A1C levels. They also started a group for Somali women with diabetes.
  • The Out in the Backyard CHAT collected the information they need to create a website to support the GLBTQ community in the Backyard. They organized many community gatherings, such as discussions on bullying and creating health directives.
  • The “Did You Know?” CHAT worked with block club leaders to strengthen the system for neighbors connecting with and supporting each other. As a result of their work, the Phillips neighborhood had the highest National Night Out participation it has ever had: 52 registered block parties, up from 16 the previous year.

All Backyard residents are welcome to come to the Backyard Initiative community meetings on the 3rd Thursday of every month at 5 PM at the Midtown Global Market. Call the Cultural Wellness Center for details: 612-721-5745.

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