Hospitals caring for their communities

AHA News

Every year the Minnesota Hospital Association (MHA), like many other state, metropolitan and regional hospital associations across the country, releases an annual report that describes how its hospitals help build healthier communities.

These stories are from MHA’s 2015 Community Benefit Report – available at – and are reprinted with the hospitals’ and MHA’s permission. They offer an example of how hospitals and hospital associations are telling their story to the public. 

Rice Memorial Hospital’s ReYou Wellness Program

The city of Willmar in west Central Minnesota has a large population of Hispanic and Somali immigrants who may speak a language other than English or may have cultural beliefs that do not align with preventative care. The ReYou Wellness Program at Rice Memorial Hospital is striving to bridge the barrier between Willmar’s diverse populations and the concept of community wellness.

The hospital’s ReYou program began in 2013. To reach Willmar’s minority population, ReYou coordinators enlisted the help of Willmar’s Adult Basic Education (ABE) program, with a goal of connecting with adults who were enrolled in English as a Second language classes.

In 2014, ReYou offered four separate biometric screenings throughout the year to ABE students, reaching 54 people. The screening checked each person’s blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and body mass index.

With the assistance of interpreters, people who attended the biometric screenings were able to have their results explained to them in a comfortable environment. Suggestions were given as to how they could improve their health, and those with immediate needs were encouraged to follow up with their doctor as soon as possible.

From the data obtained at these biometric screenings, it became evident that women, especially Somali women, were not exercising on a regular basis. The most common reason given was that they did not have a comfortable setting where they could exercise.

To meet this need, ReYou started a free, women-only exercise class that was held in the city auditorium, a convenient location within walking distance for many. Participants met once a week for one month and had fun letting loose in a comfortable, familiar environment.

They enjoyed learning simple calisthenics, stretching and playing soccer – their favorite sport! The class has now concluded, but medical students from the University of Minnesota are trying to model a similar class, in hopes of making it sustainable.

In addition to its large minority population, Willmar faces another area of community health need. The city sits in Kandiyohi County, which has one of the largest populations of mentally and physically disabled individuals in the state. They often struggle with weight gain due to side effects from their medications, such as exhaustion or decreased metabolism.

Westwinds is a group home in Willmar that houses up to 10 people experiencing mental health issues ranging from depressions and anxiety to schizophrenia, eating disorders and anger management issues. To help improve their quality of life, ReYou health and wellness coach Amber Chevalier made biweekly group health coaching visits to the home.

The group coaching visits focused on maintaining good eating habits (building a menu plan each week), regular exercise (which included finding a partner) and stress management (meditation, Tai Chi).

Today, the ReYou Wellness Program has extended this initiative to the inpatient mental health unit at Rice Memorial Hospital. The weekly session allows patients to learn wellness tactics that can help them better manage their mental health.


Allina Health offers teens ways to cope with stress

There is so much pressure for teens to be their best in school, at home, online, during after-school activities, in their social life – just about everywhere.

Reducing stress is not always about changing the way you deal with it. That’s why Allina Health created Change to Chill,, a free online resource to help teens get perspective on what matters.

Change to Chill is a community health improvement initiative designed to help teens stress less and live a more balanced life. The online, mobile-friendly resource launched in November 2014 and provides free, easy-to-use information about stress – what it is, what can trigger it and how to best manage it.

To date, 15,000 users have interacted with content on the Change to Chill website, and content and images from the website are effective on social media, reaching more than 300,000 people to date. Online, teens can:

• watch, listen and learn about stress and its triggers, meditation, ways to focus, guided imagery and more;

• enter the “Chiller Challenge” to win cool prizes and have their “Chiller” posted on the website. Chillers are visuals that help us slow down and step back from stress;

• access train-the-trainer modules and activities to help others find balance; and

• press play on a variety of videos that offer stress reduction tips and examples for everybody.

“Mental wellness was identified as a priority in our recent community health needs assessment,” said nurse Susan Nygaard, the hospital’s manager of community health improvement. “Change to Chill is one resource we can provide to fill a gaping need in the community. The program is a prevention resource for teens. We want to teach them positive ways to react to stress so they can live a healthy and balanced life.”


Somali health project aims to build trust

Through the Somali Health Literacy Project, Mayo Clinic Health System is building strong relationships and trust while supporting community health and wellness.

The health system launched the project, also known as the Somali Community Health Outreach program, in Mankato’s St. Peter community in June 2015. The purpose of the project is to improve health literacy in Somali families; provide the Somali community with a better understanding of wellness and health; and create meaningful connections leading to affordable, accessible family medical care.

The project offers educational meetings on the first Friday of every month. An average of 10 to 15 Somali residents attend each session to learn about a variety of health topics. In addition to Somali residents, others from the community attend the meetings, including Nicollet County Public Health staff and nursing and support staff from the St. Peter Clinic.

The meeting are both fun and informative and include an interchange of knowledge and encouragement. All in attendance share their experiences, helping to bridge the cultural gap by expounding on differences and embracing the similarities.

A Somali spokesperson and organizer for the event interprets the information so that all participants can understand one another. Somali-speaking participants have helped English-speaking participants learn words and phrases in Somali, including “I love you,” and “my friend.”

Early sessions focused on defining what health means and navigating the health care system as a patient. Other sessions examined specific health issues such as preventative health, diabetes and mental health. Meetings highlighting cancer screenings, asthma, immunizations and heart disease are planned for upcoming months. 


Topic: Community Health
Tags: population health, Community health, Community Connections

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