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Update on the Backyard Initiative “Tell Me a Story” and Diabetes Projects Receive Support

by Janice Barbee, Cultural Wellness Center

In August, the Commission on Health, a citizen group of people who live in the Phillips community or in the Powderhorn Park, Central, or Corcoran neighborhoods, gave its support to two more projects developed by Citizen Health Action Teams of the Backyard Initiative.

The Backyard Initiative is a partnership between Allina and the community surrounding Allina headquarters to develop ways to improve the health of the community.

Communications/ “Tell Me a Story” CHAT

One of the goals of the BYI Initiative is to build the capacity and skills of residents in any ways that will contribute to their overall health. At the CHAT meetings, people often talk about how giving people opportunities to express themselves is a crucial component of health; it is one of the statements in the BYI definition of health.  The “Purpose Statement” for the Communication CHAT 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.”

The purpose of the Communications/ “Tell Me a Story” CHAT”'s project is to assist and encourage residents of the BYI area to portray their own stories and opinions as well as advocate for themselves and their community in traditional and community media. The CHAT”'s first step to hold a workshop for residents on how to submit a public service announcement, an editorial, a letter to the editor, or an article to a newspaper to communicate with the neighborhood. Residents will learn how to write these and will get one-to-one support if they wish.

Volunteer representatives from The Alley are on the Communications /”Tell Me a Story” CHAT, and they are committed to being a strong support for anyone who wants to learn to communicate with the media. Anyone in the community can contribute his or her thoughts and ideas to The Alley Newspaper. If you are interested in being a community reporter for The Alley or any other media source, please contact the CHAT through the Cultural Wellness Center at 612-721-5745.

A Partnership of Diabetics (A-POD) CHAT

People in the Phillips Community have been developing a model for supporting people with diabetes that has already helped many people to live healthier lives. Team member Robert Albee reported to the Commission that doctors do not have the time to give all the information and support that diabetics need to manage their blood sugar well. A-POD will be forming additional “pods” or groups of diabetics that meet together on a regular basis to share their experiences with each other and support each other to monitor their health and track their progress. As they stated in their proposal, the strategy of “one diabetic talking to another” is one that is missing from top-down clinical approaches.

The funds that the Commission approved for the project will support the time and space for strengthening the model and documenting the results.  A-POD intends to show that this system of support will improve health outcomes for diabetics in ways that doctors alone cannot achieve.

Their proposal stated: “We recognize the social implication surrounding diabetes in which those of us with diabetics are often “blamed” for causing our own illness through our lifestyle choices. This ignores stressors that trigger many of our physical reactions within our environment. which continue to expose simplistic solutions often promoted by a medical community that treats a complex chronic disease such as diabetes by 1) minimizing its dangers until patients become seriously ill; 2) promoting a primarily medication response that ignores or minimizes our self-care responsibilities; 3) isolating or siloing people who have a chronic disease that centers largely on food and eating that is generally a social or family occurrence.”

The Commission applauded A-POD CHAT members for developing a community-centered model that helps people to take responsibility for their health and support each other. Commissioners stated that this model has potential to be applied to other chronic illnesses and could help point the way to a de-professionalizing of community health care.

The next meetings of the Backyard Initiative are on Thursdays, October 7 and October 28.  All community residents are invited to attend. Call the Cultural Wellness Center at 621-721-5745 for more information.

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