The continued shaping of the Backyard Initiative

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Since last December, 207 people have discussed together what improving health and health care means to them in community gatherings at the Cultural Wellness Center (CWC) on the corner of Lake Street and Bloomington Ave. Community residents are now developing ideas for initiatives to improve the health of residents in the “Backyard,” which includes the four neighborhoods of Phillips as well as Central, Powderhorn Park and Corcoran.

The Backyard Initiative (BYI) is Allina Hospitals and Clinics effort to galvanize a coalition of community residents and community-based, government, education and healthcare organizations towards improving the health and healthcare of residents of the community.
There are currently six groups of community residents meeting regularly:

Rebirthing Community: Bringing Elders and Youth Together: This team is focused on bringing elders and youth together for a “rebirthing” of community, a process of transitioning from individualism to community, from alienation to collaboration. It means honoring the importance of the roles of both generations. The team has discussed mentoring and visual arts as a way to bring the generations together. Interested residents can call CWC for more information.

2 Establishing Anchor Families: This team is seeking to establish “anchor families” in each neighborhood who can teach life skills and guiding values to youth as well as connect youth and their families to resources for wellness. They have been collecting information about youth in the community and the issues that are important to them. Recently they attended a preview about a PBS program about youth and mental health issues. They are ready to bring teenagers to the table to work together. Call CWC if you are a resident and are interested in joining.

3 Mapping: This group is looking at what is already being done in the Backyard, where money is already being spent, so that new initiatives do not replicate current initiatives and programs. They are identifying the services that exist in the Backyard area which treat sickness and also those that prevent sickness. The team wants to connect with people who know the history of the community. This group welcomes more members.

4 Cultural Health Practices: The members of this team want to acknowledge and make more public the cultural health practices that are currently a part of the networks of care for Backyard residents. Each cultural group in the Backyard area has its own practices for illness prevention and sickness care. The team wants to bring this awareness to the large group; many cultural healers are not recognized by mainstream health providers. They are also interested in understanding what each group sees as their primary health issues. The cultural groups they are focusing on are Native American, African and African American, Latino/Hispanic, Asian, and European American. They are looking for more team members, especially someone from each cultural group to partner with them to learn more about the practices, and in order to be respectful of the information a cultural community may wish to share only within their community.

5 GLBT: A team has just recently been formed to look at the health concerns of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community.

6 Assessment: This team has taken on the responsibility of planning and overseeing the activities that will create a picture of the current state of health and well-being of the residents and families in the Backyard area. The team bases their assessment on the definition of health that the larger group developed. They have chosen two means of collecting this information: in 20 Listening Circles where residents will gather together to answer questions about health, and in “walk-arounds,” where 750 one-to-one interviews will be conducted by people who go door-to-door. The team has just hired two Listening Circle coordinators (one is a youth who is being mentored by the more experienced coordinator) and has determined the questions which will be asked of all the groups. The coordinators are now choosing facilitators and note-takers for all the Listening Circles. The team’s priority is to hire people who live in the Backyard area. The facilitators and note-takers will attend a training and orientation. The Listening Circles will be held during the month of August, and the walk-arounds will start in September or October.

The July meeting was hosted by Little Earth of United Tribes, including a barbeque at their new Amphitheatre at 24th St. and Cedar Avenue. The evening commemorated the initiation of Little Earth’s Native Garden Project which will grow vegetables, flowers and healing herbs.

All residents of the Backyard Initiative area are welcome to join the large gathering on the first Thursday of every month.

Next Meeting: Thursday, August 6th, 5-7 pm At Southside Family Nurturing Center, 2448 18th Avenue South. Call the Cultural Wellness Center at 612-721-5745 for more information.

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