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The Backyard Initiative | Community engagement | Allina Health

Working together to improve health in our community

For more about the Backyard Initiative,
email or
call 612-262-4430.

The Backyard Initiative is a dynamic partnership between Allina Health and its neighbors to improve health in the seven neighborhoods immediately surrounding The Commons, Abbott Northwestern Hospital, and the Phillips Eye Institute.

Despite having access to world-class medical care right in their "backyard" many residents in the area experience poor health outcomes.

The Backyard Initiative goes beyond medical care to improve health and health care through: active engagement, addressing the root causes of illness, and building connections.

Map outlines backyard area

Where is the Backyard?
The Backyard is the approximately one square mile area surrounding The Commons (Allina Health corporate headquarters), Abbott Northwestern Hospital and Phillips Eye Institute in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Backyard includes the neighborhoods of Ventura Village, Phillips West, Midtown Phillips, East Phillips, Central, Powderhorn Park and Corcoran. The boundaries are Interstate 94, Interstate 35W, 38th Street South and Hiawatha Avenue.

Active engagement

The Backyard Initiative supports residents as they define the health needs of their community to become active partners in their health and the health of their community.

Addressing root causes of illness

Research shows that social determinants of health including isolation and lack of social support have a profound impact on our health.

Building connections

The Backyard Initiative incubates new ideas to promote health in addition to treating illness.

It is one of the signature community health improvement initiatives of Community Benefit & Engagement at Allina Health. Partners include the Cultural Wellness Center, HOPE Community , Portico Healthnet and LISC-Twin Cities.

Informal social support networks

For more about the Backyard Initiative,
email or
call 612-262-4430.

The Backyard Initiative supports residents as they define the health needs of their community and partner with community organizations to improve the health of their community.

By strengthening the social support networks needed for residents to be active partners in their own health, residents are empowered to draw upon their own knowledge, skills, and cultural values to take care of themselves and their families, friends, and neighbors.

By learning and working together, health care institutions and communities can begin to unravel the root environmental and social factors impacting community health, identify solutions, and have the community support necessary for success.

Below are the definitions for three key social determinants of health identified by Backyard residents.

  • Social cohesion: The quality of relationships and the existence of trust, mutual obligation, and respect in communities or in the wider society.
  • Social support: The emotional, active support that a person receives from the people around them.
  • Health literacy: The tools, including knowledge, skills, resources, and the ability to work in partnership with health care to improve health.

Core partners in this work include Community Benefit & Engagement at Allina Health, Cultural Wellness Center, HOPE Community and LISC-Twin Cities.

Citizen Health Action Teams (CHATs)

This video gives an overview on the Backyard Initiative and three Citizen Health Action Team (CHAT) participants describe their work as residents of the Backyard Community.

Join a CHAT and work with your neighbors to improve community health. Call the Cultural Wellness Center at 612-721-5745.

All CHAT meetings

On the third Thursday of the month, from 5 to 7 p.m., all of the CHATs come together to work on their ideas and statement of purpose in order to have a uniform plan and process.

All CHAT Meetings

Division of Inidian Works
1001 East Lake Street
Minneapolis, MN 55407
Phone: 612-721-5745

Get directions.

We all know that we need exercise, healthy food, plenty of rest and occasional check-ups to be healthy—but our families, cultural traditions, and community and social connections also have a powerful impact on our health.

To strengthen the social support networks of the Backyard community, residents have formed Citizen Health Action Teams (CHATs), each with a different focus for maintaining and improving both individual and community health. These teams include:

  • Rebirthing Community: Community of Lights connects different generations together through mentoring and visual arts.
  • Establishing Anchor Families is seeking to establish anchor families on each block who can teach life skills, in addition to connecting youth and their families to wellness resources.
  • Out in the Backyard connects individuals from all cultures who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) with the resources they need to be healthy and safe.
  • Growing the Backyard supports healthy eating by providing gardening education and practices across cultures.
  • Dakota Language Revitalization teaches youth the Dakota language and life ways to keep the Dakota community vibrant and healthy.
  • Environmental Health Begins at Home teaches the negative impact of dangerous chemicals in home environments on health.
  • Communications / Media is working to lessen or eliminate the divide between people who have access to information and those who don't, ensuring that more people have the information needed to engage in a healthy community.
  • Assessment and Evaluation developed a process to guide data analysis by collecting and developing evaluations in response to the needs of the Backyard Initiative CHATs and the Community Commission on Health.
  • A Partnership of Diabetics (A-POD) supports diabetes self-management and recovery through networks of family, social and community-based resources that complement the work of health care providers.
  • Project S.E.L.F. explores specific health and cultural concerns of youth in immigrant communities through educational workshops.
  • Somali Womens Health is connecting Somali women who are isolated from each other and resources to learn about good health habits.
  • Circle of Healing is working to bridge the divide between western clinical care and traditional and alternatives health care practices.

How to get involved

Join a Citizen Health Action Team (CHAT).

If you are a resident of the Backyard area and would like to be part of a CHAT, please contact the Cultural Wellness Center at 612-721-5745.

Volunteer in the Backyard.

Even if you live outside of the Backyard area, you are welcome to come and help out.

Allina Health employees can check out volunteer opportunities on Mission Matters: Mission Matters Backyard.

This video shows how Portico Healthnet works with hospitals throughout the Minneapolis / St. Paul metro area to help families access a continuum of preventive, primary and specialty care to improve community health and reduce dependence on emergency care.

Portico Healthnet

About 22 percent of the people living in the Backyard do not have health insurance. That is why we're working with Portico Healthnet to increase access to health care for community residents.

Portico Healthnet is a non-profit organization that helps uninsured Minnesotans find affordable health insurance and care. Since 1995, more than 6,000 uninsured children and adults have enrolled in Portico's safety-net coverage program. With Portico Healthnet's assistance, another 5,000 have been enrolled in public coverage programs.

Fact sheet and report

Adobe Reader required to view reportThe Backyard Initiative fact sheet

Adobe Reader required to view reportCommunity at the Core: Backyard Initiative Assessment Report: This report describes the Backyard Initiative's community needs assessment process, and summarizes the findings and recommendations from 21 listening circles and 677 walk-around interviews.

In the news

Media inquiries

For media inquiries, please contact Gloria O'Connell, 612-863-4801.

THE ALLEY: Annual reports on the Backyard

The Alley, the community newspaper of the Phillips Community in Minneapolis, regularly reports on the Backyard Initiative.

Adobe Reader required to view reportPresenting to You: The Faces, Voices and Work of the Backyard Initiative: The July 2012 issue of The Alley was largely dedicated to reflecting the voices and the activities over the past year of the Backyard Initiative.

Adobe Reader required to view reportThe Backyard Initiative: Strengthening community health improvement: The August 2011 issue of The Alley included a four-page insert with updates on what's happening in the Backyard, details about Citizen Health Action Teams (CHATs) and a focus on mental health improvement.

Adobe Reader required to view reportA Community-Corporate Partnership to Improve Health: The May 2010 issue featured a four-page insert on the community needs assessment with insights from Allina Health staff and community residents.

AHA NEWS: Allina Health is helping 'Backyard' neighbors

The American Hospital Association (AHA) put its "Community Connections" spotlight on the Backyard Initiative in the May 31, 2010 issue of its national newsletter.

MINNESOTA PUBLIC RADIO: Income, zip code, education seen as good indicator of health

Factors like where you live and where you shop have a big effect on your health. And overcoming them is hard work. Just ask leaders of Allina Health Backyard Initiative.

arrow points to link to Minnesota Public Radio website Listen to the report on