Article and photo courtesy of Minnesota Department of Human Services
Not a lot is common about Health Commons. Colorful curtains, layered rugs, and comfortable seating fill the community health and wellness center where all programs are free. Partners behind the organization in Minneapolis’ Cedar-Riverside neighborhood hope the warm setting is a gateway to connect members of the Somali community and other visitors to primary health care and wellness resources.
Minnesota Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson toured Health Commons, located in the Dar Ul-Quba Cultural Center, June 29 to experience the unique community-based approach firsthand.
Health Commons, which opened in September 2011, is a collaboration of the University of Minnesota Medical Center Fairview, the Augsburg College Department of Nursing, and the East African Health Project. It is supported by a $50,000 grant from the UCare Fund, which seeks to improve health through innovative partnerships across communities and reduce disparities for disadvantaged populations.
Health Commons was founded on the philosophy that hospitality and developing relationships leads to transcultural understanding and health benefits for all participants. Its mission is to provide health education and wellness services, link people to existing resources and health services, provide basic supplies to those that can’t afford them, and provide a welcoming space that promotes social connection and sense of belonging.
The drop-in center is open two afternoons each week. Free of charge, participants take nutrition, parenting and exercise classes offered by community partners like University of Minnesota Extension Services and the Somali Women’s Education Network. Dr. Osman Harare from the East African Health Project and Augsburg nursing faculty provide individual consultations for health-related issues, medication clarification, blood pressure monitoring and advice about navigating the health care system. Volunteers offer alternative health therapies, such as healing touch and massage.
Students in Augsburg’s transcultural nursing program who help staff Health Commons also benefit from the unique opportunity for transcultural experience providing health services.