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News & Views of Phillips Since 1976
Wednesday June 12th 2024

THE BACKYARD INITIATIVE: History and framework


The Backyard Initiative (BYI) is a dynamic partnership between the Backyard Community and Allina Health to improve the health of residents in the Backyard. The area defined as “the Backyard” encompasses the approximately one square mile area surrounding Allina”'s corporate headquarters (2925 Chicago Ave S), Abbott Northwestern Hospital and Phillips Eye Institute in Minneapolis, MN. Neighborhoods in the Backyard include East Phillips, Midtown Phillips, Ventura Village, Phillips West, Central, Powderhorn Park and Corcoran. This Initiative began with Allina engaging in many conversations with community stakeholders in May of 2008.

This program began with a relationship and trust building process to surface the knowledge, experience, cultural values, and health-related priorities of the Backyard residents. Backyard residents challenged Allina Health to see themselves as the residents see Allina, as part of the community”'s backyard. Community residents began to see their own potential and power as a group for improving residents”' health.

Early in the process, residents developed a Definition of Health that became the foundation for the Initiative. (See the Definition of Health below next to the Wheel showing the BYI structure.)

In 2009, the Backyard Initiative (BYI) completed a Community Assessment. An Assessment Team was formed to create a picture of the current state of health and well-being of residents in the Backyard, engage a broad network of residents in the process, and inform and plan the next steps for the Backyard Initiative. The BYI Assessment Team included community residents and staff from Allina Health, the Cultural Wellness Center, and Wilder Research.

The Assessment was comprised of 21 Listening Circles and 677 face-to-face, walk-around interviews. Three themes emerged from the 2009 Assessment:

The Power of Interconnectedness: Each dimension of health named in the community definition of health is dependent on the others; one dimension of health cannot be understood or addressed in isolation.

The Power of Relationships: Relationships impact the many determinants of health. People talked about the need for personal connection in all things related to health. Exercise is best done with others, as a social activity; healthy eating requires the whole family to support each other; talking with family and friends about your problems keeps mentally healthy; accountability between people and between people and institutions keeps the community healthy.

The Power of Knowledge and Creativity: Cultural knowledge, information exchange between patients and health practitioners, and community dialogue can be resources for health.


Community residents have been supported by the Cultural Wellness Center to form Community Health Action Teams or CHATS. The CHATS are study groups, health improvement activators and cultural community circles who research and organize to work on a particular topic of importance to the whole community”'s health and well-being. The focus of CHAT work and activities relates to the findings and recommendations that came out of the Community Health Assessment and grounded by the principles of the Definition of Health.

The Commission on Health

The BYI Community Commission on Health is composed of 2-3 members of all of the CHAT”'s as well as staff from Allina Health and the Cultural Wellness Center. Representatives from 2 organizational partners, Hope Community and Portico as well as the Commissioner of Health from Minneapolis also have seats on the Commission. It meets monthly and has the following purpose:

To protect and build the partnership between the community and Allina Health; to assure the work of community is valued.

To monitor the health of the community.

To listen to the people in the community about their health concerns; to keep in touch with the pulse of the community.

To educate people in the community about issues and available resources.

To build community capacity for taking responsibility for its own health.

To research, study and produce knowledge about conditions in the community, and to design solutions to change them.

Two Resource CHATS for other CHATS and the Commission:


This team carries out the assessment, evaluation, and research needs of the Commission. The team has two primary roles:

To ensure that the CHAT projects and other activities of the BYI are consistent with the vision and mission of the BYI, and,

To oversee the research process of the Backyard Initiative. This process includes assessment, evaluation and any work to create new knowledge


The BYI Communications CHAT works to assist with internal communications between the Backyard Initiative CHAT teams. We also help the CHAT teams communicate in their own words and ways with the 45,000 residents and 15,000 households in the Backyard area. Examples include:

Beginning in April 2013, through our partnership with Alley Communications, we featured a specific CHAT team or BYI activities on the back page of The Alley Newspaper.

In July, we helped to coordinate a show featuring 3 BYI CHATs on the Truth To Tell KFAI radio show

The Communications CHAT also represented the BYI at couple of neighborhood events: Midtown Phillips Festival, Midtown Global Market Music Festival and Allina Volunteer Fair.

BYI Back Pages and the Definition of Health have been turned into posters so that CHAT teams can communicate about their BYI work.

An inventory of available meeting space in the BYI area is being compiled for publication in early 2014.

Over 19, 174 interactions have occurred between BYI members and the 45,000 residents of the Backyard.

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