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News & Views of Phillips Since 1976
Tuesday May 21st 2024

Backyard Initiative What We Learned

What We Learned

The Backyard Initiative (BYI) is a partnership between residents of South Minneapolis and Allina Health. The Cultural Wellness Center, as lead agency, is the organizer and facilitator of this partnership. The goal of the BYI is to improve the health of residents living in the seven neighborhoods of the area called the Backyard. The BYI improves community health through the work of Community Health Action Teams (CHATs), which are formed and operated by residents in the Backyard. An evaluation conducted in 2016 showed that the Backyard Initiative activities were increasing four health indicators:

  • Social support: The many kinds of support that a community member
    receives from and gives to other community members.
  • Social cohesion: The sense of community and belonging.
  • Health education: The degree to which community members have the
    capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic information and
    services needed to make appropriate decisions regarding their health.
  • Health empowerment: The ability and motivation to take care of
    oneself””to attain the knowledge, skill, and confidence to do what it
    takes to get healthy and/or stay healthy.

Conclusion from our most recent evaluation

These results demonstrate the power of community in improving community health. Our large health care institutions are focused on supporting the health of individuals and are not equipped to build community. In the Backyard Initiative, community members demonstrated that not only can they build on the resources within the community to increase indicators of health, but for people to stay engaged in health activities and make healthy changes, they need to meet together, learn together, and contribute.


Based on the findings of the BYI most recent evaluation, we offer the following recommendations for consideration to members of the Backyard community, leaders of future Backyard activities, Allina Health and other health organizations, and government, non-profits, and social service agencies wanting to tap into the power of community to improve health.

  • When planning and implementing any program for improving health, consider how these essential elements might impact both the way you engage with community members and how to maximize the impact of your strategies. Integrate building community and community engagement into your goals. Whatever the strategy, support people to contribute to their community and connect with each other. Support people to take care of their own and each other”'s health.
  • Build the capacity of institutions and communities through activities that build on the resources within the community, connect community members together, and connect community members to institutions.
  • Engage in your own health maintenance and improvement.

Definition of Health

  • Health is a state of physical, mental, social, and spiritual well-being. It is not only the absence of infirmity and disease.
  • Health is the state of balance, harmony, and connectedness within and between many systems””the body, the family, the community,
    the environment, and culture. It cannot be seen only in an individual context. 
  • Health is an active state of being; people must be active participants to be healthy. It cannot be achieved by being passive. 

For the full report or for more information about the Backyard Initiative, visit the website at or call the Backyard Initiative Resource Center: 612-353-6211.

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