For 30 years, the Augsburg Health Commons have advanced a model of nursing practice rooted in accompaniment, social justice, and transcultural nursing practice. In early January, the program received a $50,000 Health Equity Innovation Fund grant from AARP and the Center to Champion Nursing in America, a joint initiative of AARP Foundation, AARP, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, to deepen and expand this work.
“We are moved beyond words to be selected for this opportunity,” said Katie Clark, associate professor of nursing and executive director of the Health Commons. “These funds will not only help relieve some of the suffering people are forced to endure in the immediate term, but will also help cultivate ideas and solutions for the long term in caring for people who experience marginalization.”
The first Augsburg Health Commons drop-in center opened at Central Lutheran Church in downtown Minneapolis in 1992. Most people seeking care at the Central location live without a permanent residence or are marginally housed. In 2011, a second location in Cedar-Riverside opened in response to a need for accessible, no-cost health care services identified by members of the East African immigrant community located near Augsburg’s campus. Both locations center community voices and are led and organized by nursing faculty members, nursing and physician assistant volunteers, students, and community members.
The people who come to the Health Commons are from diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. Everyone is welcome, and all services are provided free of charge. Health concerns might include nutrition, medication, stress management, respiratory conditions, injuries, skin problems, and chronic disease such as diabetes and hypertension. Frequently, people experiencing these problems come to Health Commons locations for their easy access, supportive environment, and assistance with connecting to other health care resources.
Going forward, the Health Equity Innovation Fund grant project will focus on three interconnected goals.
- Continuing and expanding care for marginalized communities.
- Deepening the focus on health equity, systemic racism, and structural inequities in nursing education.
- Disseminating knowledge to influence the nursing profession towards greater inclusiveness.
The Health Commons will continue providing opportunities for the most marginalized communities of Minneapolis to live healthier lives as they are cared for in local context. In addition to existing sites at Central Lutheran Church and Cedar Riverside and work with local encampments, the grant will allow staff and volunteers to explore new partnerships at other locations, including in North Minneapolis in collaboration with Augsburg’s physician assistant program.
By providing paid research and practice internships for graduate nursing students, the grant will also support the educational mission of the Health Commons. Students in Augsburg’s BSN, Master’s, and DNP programs will continue to learn to decode systems of oppression that are embedded within systems and social norms, and to promote health equity by connecting with others through shared humanity. The project will fund dissemination of research by Augsburg faculty and students through conferences and publishing. In so doing, it aims to create pathways for developing inclusiveness within the nursing profession, both in practice and in the academy.
“Our Augsburg nursing faculty are excited to be able to dig deeper into naming systemic and structural racism in partnership with people with lived experience in an effort to begin creating needed change in healthcare and the discipline of nursing,” said Clark.
Augsburg Health Commons is one of 16 organizations nationally to receive a Health Equity Innovations Fund award for 2022. The awards through the AARP Center for Health Equity through NursingSM and the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action, an initiative of AARP Foundation, AARP, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, are for projects offering promising solutions aimed at eliminating structural inequities, particularly structural racism, within the nursing profession, health systems, or community, and for projects that help improve access to care and services for those most disproportionately impacted by health disparities. Projects also support the advancement of one or more of the recommendations in the National Academy of Medicine report, “The Future of Nursing 2020-2030: Charting a Path to Achieve Health Equity.”