Backyard Initiative: update


The Backyard Initiative is Allina’s effort to galvanize a coalition of community residents and community-based, government, education and health care organizations toward improving the health and health care of residents of the community. The area defined as “the Backyard” encompasses the approximately one square mile area surrounding Allina’s corporate headquarters. Neighborhoods in the Backyard include East Phillips, Midtown Phillips, Ventura Village, Phillips West, parts of the Central, Powderhorn Park and Corcoran in Minneapolis. Five Backyard Initiative focus areas have been identified: Engage Communities, Build Bridges through community partnerships, Focus on Prevention, Expand Access to health care, and Start Early with quality early child care and education.

In the “Engage Communities” focus area, the Cultural Wellness Center, a community non-profit at the corner of Lake Street and Bloomington Ave, is hosting community gatherings where residents within the Backyard dialogue about what improving health and health care means to them. The meetings began in December 2008 and have been held about every two weeks. To date, over 200 people have attended the meetings, and new residents are welcome to come at any time.

Community residents began by creating a definition of health:

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

The residents are now collecting information from many sources to profile the Backyard neighborhoods, including the number of households, the number and kind of businesses and organizations, the wellness/prevention and illness care resources available in the area, residents’ perceptions of their community, and stories of the histories of the different cultural communities. They are going beneath surface perceptions to uncover the unseen blockages to health, as they have defined it, as well as resources for health.

Thus far, the residents’ major focus has been on prevention; they have been identifying the things necessary for health and well-being on many levels, from food that has the nutrients to support health and an active life, to a sense of belonging and connection to culture. The people at each table at the meeting have formed a team to choose a strategy for health and well-being. Currently there are seven groups, an Evaluation and Assessment Team, a team looking at current initiatives that are underway in the community that complement one of the five focus areas, a team planning a licensed day care that teaches the Dakota language, a team composed of youth who want to get more youth involved, a team to bring elders and youth together, and two other groups that are still deciding their focus.

On Thursday, May 28, Dakota Elders will lead the group in a walk-through process to hear the stories of this land and connect with sacred places and the spirits of the land. Then on Monday, June 8, community residents are invited to a healing ceremony where, as a Dakota Elder stated, “We will ask the earth to carry us again.” Everyone who lives in these neighborhoods is welcome.

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