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HealthFinders VISTA supports hospital understanding of Somali birthing practices

The Community Wellness Collaboration between District One Hospital (DOH) and HealthFinders Collaborative (HFC) was formed in September 2011 to enhance health access and increase wellness throughout the DOH community.  CHC VISTA, Sameena Ahmed, completed the first phase of the wellness collaboration plan by researching and developing the HealthFinders Collaborative Wellness Model that unifies existing programs and establishes a framework for future initiatives.  She continues to play a strong role in this collaborative by participating in quarterly meetings with DOH leadership.

In an early 2012 connection meeting, the DOH leadership team expressed interest in learning how to better communicate regarding reproductive and women’s health, after facing challenges treating pregnant Somali women. The team wanted to learn more about Somali women’s perspective on pregnancy and birth, especially cesarean sections. Sameena saw this as a great opportunity to use the collaborative nature of HealthFinders to connect with the local colleges.  She found a student/adviser team at Carleton College interested in taking this project on as an anthropology senior thesis project, and connected the student, Leah Eby, with various Somali women in the community to conduct one-on-one interviews regarding Somali perspectives on pregnancy and birth.  Combining the information from the interviews with extensive literature review, Leah developed an extensive report for DOH with recommendations including contact information for a great Somali cultural responsiveness trainer and encouragement to deepen connections with HealthFinders Family Councils. Sameena shared the results with the DOH leadership who arranged for Leah to present her findings personally to providers, the Chief Medical Officer, and the Clinical Coordinator of the Women’s Health Unit.

This project is a great example of how HealthFinders can bring together resources and connections from the patient community, the local colleges, and community institutions to address issues to improve health.  Not only did Sameena connect resources to address this particular issue, but in this process, she was able to establish structures and lasting relationships to allow for similar collaborative projects to take place in the future as other issues arise.

2011-2012 NHS VISTA reflects on continuing service and skill development

Name: Jamie Bachaus

VISTA service term: 2011-2012  Neighborhood HealthSource

Hometown: Le Sueur, MN

Current location: Vancouver, WA

Education: University of Minnesota, B.S. Nutrition & Biology ‘11

University of Washington, MPH Candidate ‘15

1) What about your VISTA experience influenced where you are today?

My VISTA experience encouraged me to continue serving in Washington Service Corps’ AmeriCorps State program as a Let’s Move! Coordinator at Clark County Public Health. It also pushed me to further develop work skills before pursuing my Masters in Public Health at the University of Washington.

2) What was your most memorable moment as a VISTA?

My most memorable moment as a VISTA would have to be the Gala. It took a tremendous amount of work and effort throughout the semester to fundraise, coordinate volunteers, set the schedule, organize the program, etc. and it turned out to be a great success. At the time, it was hard to step back and recognize all of the skills developed during that time whether it be fundraising, small grant writing, volunteer management, stress management, or simply attention to detail.  Now I can appreciate those lessons learned and apply skills to my current scope of work and looking back, it was a huge success in raising funds for our uninsured patients and a very unique opportunity.

3) Describe your current career endeavors.  Who or what is inspiring your work these days? 

As a Let’s Move! Coordinator at Clark County Public Health, I am inspired by coworkers, our leadership team, family, friends, past experiences and emerging challenges. I think one of the most challenging, yet exciting pieces in community work is planting the seed and its slow, ongoing development. There is no clear end or definite answer; building these norms and behaviors takes time and there is never-ending ambiguity. I think navigating through that, though challenging, is exciting and encourages me to seek further education in Public Health so I can continue this work.

4) What book should everybody read, and why?

The Gardens of Democracy: A New American Story of Citizenship, the Economy, and the Role of Government by Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer because we’re all better off when we’re all better off.

 5) What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about social justice, health equity, food access and cooperation. When we look beyond the surface and allow for transparency and strive to communicate across barriers, great things can happen.

6) Do you have any advice for the current 2012-2013 College Health Corps VISTAs?

We’re all better off when we’re all better off.

Metro State’s innovative dental therapy model goes national

In a past post we highlighted the impact Metro State’s dental therapy program has had with changing the landscape of oral health in Minnesota and how with time it would be a nationwide movement.  The time has come! A recent Star Tribune article reports,  “nearly two dozen states are looking to MN for guidance in creating their own brand of dental therapists” (read more).

Open since January 2012, Metro State’s program continuously aims to increase access to oral health care within rural and under served communities with the help of CHC VISTAs.  CHC VISTA Sonya Fujioka is currently focused on community outreach in target neighborhoods to spread oral health education, increase public knowledge on little known oral health issues such as the link between diabetes and periodontal disease, and to spread information on neighborhood resources that residents can seek out for their oral health care needs.

MNIC VISTA & Supervisor named Local Public Health Heroes

College Health Corps (CHC) AmeriCorps*VISTA Gwen Neumeister and supervisor Amy Libman were recipients of a Local Public Health Hero Award for their work addressing health disparities and providing a safe and healthy environment at Minnesota Internship Center (MNIC). The award recognizes the outstanding contributions of exemplary community partners, individuals, and organizations who help raise awareness of the critical roles that evidence-based public health programs and prevention play in reducing health care costs and making Minneapolis a healthier place to live, learn, and work. Gwen and Amy were nominated by their partners at the Statewide Health Improvement Program, who support their efforts to bring fresh and healthy food to MNIC and maintain indoor and outdoor gardens.

This year is MNIC’s third and final year of hosting a CHC VISTA. The VISTAs’  have been instrumental in connecting students with health resources including access to insurance, increased health knowledge, and the creation of sustainable partnerships and long term systems. Gwen’s role includes recruiting and training volunteers, collaborating with community partners, and supporting student advocacy. With the help of volunteers, interns, and community partners Gwen and Amy successfully carry out various programming around comprehensive sex education, STI testing, healthy eating promotion, chemical dependency, mental health education, art therapy, body image, and vision care access and screenings. Gwen is especially proud of creating a sustainable partnership and vision screening program for students; out of 63 students screened, over one-third were referred for additional screening or glasses, an inkind donation of close to $3,000 (more).

The Minneapolis Health Department will honor the accomplishments of Amy and Gwen with a celebration during National Public Health Week (April 1-7). Each of the seven Local Hero awardees exemplify one of the themes of National Public Health Week: A Safe, Healthy Home for You & Your Family; A Safe, Healthy Environment for Children at School; A Safe Environment While on the Move; and, A Healthy Community. Amy and Gwen are specifically recognized for providing A Safe, Healthy Environment for Children at School through their leadership for MNIC students.

Apply Now! 2013-2014 College Health Corps VISTA positions available

The College Health Corps AmeriCorps*VISTA program has ten VISTA positions and one VISTA Leader position available for the 2013-2014 program year.  Applications are due April 26, 2013, however interviews will occur on a rolling basis and preference will be given to candidates who apply before April 12th. We encourage you to apply as soon as possible.  Apply to a position by clicking on a site’s name below (as noted on each position description, candidates must also email a resume and cover letter).

Have you completed a year of VISTA and are interested in doing a second year? Apply to be a College Health Corps VISTA Leader!

Questions or concerns?  Please contact Maggie at or 612-436-2082

Welcome to the 2013-2014 College Health Corps Host Sites!

We are excited to welcome a terrific group of College Health Corps VISTA host sites that are dedicated to eliminating health disparities and improving the health of underserved communities throughout Minnesota.

2013-2014 College Health Corps VISTA applications will be available soon!

Applications for 2013-2014 positions will be available soon (late February or early-mid March), keep checking back for updates!  If you have questions or would like to be added to the College Health Corps contact list for notification when applications are available, please email Maggie at or call  612-436-2082.

HealthFinders is hopeful for engaged programming within the Somali community

“Health is . . . energy. . . work . . . the power to go places . . . the power to do what you need to do . . . happiness . . . a full life . . . moving together in the same direction . . .”.  Communicated through a translator, fifteen elder leaders of the Somali community shared what health means to them while at the new HealthFinders clinic in Faribault.

HealthFinders plans to develop a Somali Family Council, pending final approval from the elders, formed with members appointed by the elders and representatives of all Somali clans. This council will work with HealthFinders staff and other community leaders to lead the clinic and wellness programming to be most useful and accessible to the Somali community.  Additionally, community leaders will develop a sense of control and ownership in the programs and in their own health which will lead to improved personal and community wellness.

CHC VISTA, Sameena Ahmed, is leading current initiatives to increase participant (patient) leadership and engagement by creating opportunities for and encouraging individuals to use their skills, knowledge, and personal experiences to lead and inform HealthFinders programming.  While HealthFinders provides material resources and knowledge of biomedical medicine and prevention, community leaders can provide strong ties to the community and first-hand knowledge from community experiences.

This new initiative  is in its early stages so check back soon to hear about its progress!

Forbes ranks Minneapolis #1 out of the 20 top healthiest cities in America

Positive news to start your weekend off on a positive note! …… “If you live in Minneapolis-St. Paul, you and your neighbors are less likely to have cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and asthma and are more likely to be in excellent or very good health.”  Read more at