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Thursday September 24th 2020

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Backyard Initiative Citizen Health Action Teams: Creating Connections and Resources for Health

By Janice Barbee, Cultural Wellness Center

This update highlights the work of seven additional Citizen Health Action Teams (CHATs) of fourteen total after summarizing the work of four more.  The other three will be summarize in the May issue.

The Backyard is approximately one square mile area surrounding the Midtown Global Market and Allina Health Commons.  Residents of these seven neighborhoods in south Minneapolis have been supported by the Cultural Wellness Center to develop and implement their ideas for community health improvement since December of 2008. Allina has contributed funds for these projects, with additional support from Twin Cities LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation).

Each CHAT is growing the community’s capacity to increase residents’ knowledge and skills to take better care of themselves.

Growing in the Backyard CHAT: formed over concern with the community’s food system, that not everyone has access to healthy food. They chose creating family gardens in resident’s backyards as a strategy to improve this problem.  Last summer they helped eight families with children to build raised beds (where soil is above ground within a wooden frame) and chose a variety of plants that the family could grow, harvest, and eat.  The CHAT encouraged and supported family members to plant and care for the plants together; and connected families to resources in the community for learning about gardening. They are seeking more members to support more families eating food that they have grown from seed.

Guri Nabad (Peace House) CHAT: is Somali families impacted by childhood asthma meeting throughout the year to better understand asthma’s causes; and learn tools to assist families in coping with and managing their children’s asthma. They have identified resources in the community for support, and have (specifics). Through mosques, media, and personal word-of-mouth, they have reached out to — to —.

Latina/o Environmental Health CHAT:  Began last year under the leadership of a community resident who was concerned about the environment.  With the support of the Women’s Environmental Institute (WEI), a CHAT was formed to teach Latino families how to clean their house without harmful chemicals, instead using natural products that are effective and inexpensive.  The CHAT lost its leader last year and had to regroup to recruit new members. Members are finishing their training by the WEI, and are supporting others in the Latino community to make natural cleaners and clean each other’s kitchens safely.

Out in the Backyard CHAT: goals have been to create community connectedness in the GLBTQ (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) community, and make resources more visible that are GLBTQ friendly by developing an interactive website “where anyone in the community, regardless of sexual orientation, can access existing resources that focus on supporting members of the GLBT community.”  Information has been gathered for the website and community building events hosted such as a video about bullying and a discussion on end of life directives for LGBT folks.  Construction of the website will begin soon.

Backyard community residents are welcome to attend Backyard CHAT meetings and events, as well as the All-CHAT meeting on the third Thursday of every month. Call the Cultural Wellness Center at 621-721-5745 for more information.

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