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News & Views of Phillips Since 1976
Sunday March 3rd 2024

CHAT: Citizen Health Action Teams mobilize to improve health

Hilma Grundstrom Johnson Winje, 1948, taking clothes and quilts from the clothesline in their backyard at 2512-14 Chicago Avenue at this spot where a 800 car parking ramp has replaced the backyards and homes of 26 families. Send photos of your Backyard that has been affected by institutions for The Alley”'s Gallery of Loss to

Update on the Backyard Initiative

By Janice Barbee, Cultural Wellness Center

Community Residents”' Strategies to Improve Health in the Backyard
Residents of the Backyard have been meeting at the Cultural Wellness Center for the past six months to develop their ideas for health improvement. People with similar interests have been contributing their ideas and designing projects together that they believe will make a difference in the health of the community. So far 11 teams have formed and are now working on their projects. The CHATs are continually recruiting new members to join their teams.

The Backyard Initiative was initiated by Allina Hospitals and Clinics in the fall of 2008 in the neighborhoods of Phillips, Powderhorn Park, Corcoran, and Central. What was once a project led by Allina is now a community-owned project in which Allina is a major partner.

The Community Commission on Health
Some of the CHATs have developed their projects to the point that they are now in the process of presenting their proposals to the Community Commission on Health, a group of approximately 35 people who are members of CHATs or represent institutions that have been part of the process. 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 members.

In June, the Commission discussed how it will make decisions about which projects to fund.  They have approved a list of criteria that each project has to meet (see BYI update in the Alley”'s June edition) and are now looking at how to score each proposal so that the most important criteria carry more weight than the less important. This will make it easier to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each proposal. They have decided they do not want to use a scoring system as a formula to determine which proposals are approved, but only as a basis for discussion in order to reach consensus  Members of the Commission are excited about developing a process that keeps the interests of the community in the center. Members have said they want to act differently than a funding board; they want to help build capacity in the community and support each good idea to move to implementation.

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 an existing CHAT.
Current Citizen Health Action Teams

  1. Rebirthing Community: Bringing Elders and Youth Together: The team has discussed mentoring and visual arts as a way to bring the generations together.
  2. Establishing Anchor Families: This team is seeking to establish “anchor families” on each block who can teach life skills and guiding values to youth as well as connect youth and their families to resources for wellness.
  3. Did You Know?: Working on establishing and strengthening informal networks of communication through neighbors by recruiting, training, equipping, and supporting block leaders .
  4. LGBT: A team that is working to connect individuals from all cultures who are LGBT with the resources they need to be healthy and safe.
  5. Food and Nutrition: This group is focusing on creating an empowered community that is actively involved with the production and distribution of its own food.
  6. Dakota Language Revitalization: This group is concentrated on keeping Dakota language and life ways alive and vibrant in the Dakota community.
  7. Ancient and Traditional Healing Arts: The focus of this group is on educating community about natural and ancient ways to be healthy and well and connecting people to so-called ”˜alternative”' health practitioners for healing and wellness purposes.
  8. Environmental: This group is looking at the impact of environment on the health of residents in the Backyard.
  9. Communications/Media: This group is working to lessen or eliminate the divide between people who have information and those who don”'t so that everyone has the opportunity to be engaged in a healthy community.
  10. Organizational Leadership: This group is working on connecting the organizations of the Backyard with each other and with residents in the interests of the whole community.
  11. Assessment/Analysis Team: Guiding data analysis and utilization of the data collected in the Backyard assessment.

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

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