October 2, 2022

A new Fairview Community Health and Wellness Hub will open on Thursday in the former St. Joseph’s Hospital, as the healthcare provider works to address inequities in accessing care.

In a recent Fairview survey of Saint Paul residents, nearly a third reported using urgent care or emergency department for everyday needs.  The 2021 Community Health Needs Assessment Report surveyed nearly 300 residents and found more than half of them faced barriers in getting care when they’re sick. The most common barriers were a lack of knowledge or understanding of how and where to get the right care, followed by cost concerns and logistics. It also identified racial and gender disparities.

“In the State of Minnesota and across the country we’re seeing disparities in wellbeing, in access to care, in experiences and those outcomes overall,” said Diane Tran, the director of M Health Fairview’s new Center for Community Health Equity. It’s located within the Health and Wellness Hub.

“As we think about the ability to change some of those metrics, we know there is a lot of work that has to be done,” said Tran. “There’s so much opportunity when we think about 90% of what impacts health and wellbeing takes place outside of the clinical settings. These things that relate to food, to housing, to the ability to feel safe in your community — those social determinants of health really are what we need to look at as we think about the bigger landscape about what creates wellness and hinders it.”

The Center for Community Health Equity will serve as a space for the provider to collaborate with community members and organizations to develop new programs and expand existing programs across the state. According to Tran, the work may include implementing additional food distribution programs, expanding community vaccination clinics, or adding “cultural brokers”.

M Health Fairview has six cultural brokers, which are bi-lingual and multicultural staff members who connect Indigenous, Hispanic and Latino, Hmong, African American and Karen communities to healthcare services and other resources. They served more than 165 clients through 3,444 visits during 2021.

“Having that advocate to help folks with some simple things that would ultimately prevent people losing their home, or not being able to access needed resources, food for the month, these are things that are a little bit more upstream that can prevent these larger challenges that further destabilize families,” said Tran. “It’s that ‘How do we partner with community to identify the priorities that matter to them? How do we work together to develop solutions that are appropriate that are going to be effective?’ and test those out together and tweak as necessary.”

This center for collaboration is located upstairs at Fairview’s Community Health and Wellness Hub. The Hub will also have a health clinic, mental health and addiction services, and adult day programs.

“Sometimes we don’t understand how important that is — to ideate with other people to understand like where people have challenges, where they don’t so we can learn from each other and also support each other,” said Tony Sanneh, the founder and CEO of The Sanneh Foundation.

His nonprofit is partnering with Fairview Health Services to operate a meal distribution and pop-up food shelves at the Hub.

“I think there’s always been a great need,” said Sanneh. “Inflation is really high and there are a lot of costs. There are resources out there for the community and so making sure that people feel comfortable asking for help is really important and not only for nutritional services for their family but for mental health. M Health is addressing both issues at the Hub.”

Volunteers pack the meals every week from the former St. Joseph’s ambulance bay and then deliver them to communities.

“We try to really make culturally specific food,” said Sanneh, who explained they work with chefs to craft the meals. “We’ll pack ingredients we think the different demographics that we’re serving wants to get and so every box will look a little bit different depending on where we take it.”

He hopes the collaboration happening at the Hub will be a model for others in the future.

“We found out when we give people resources and opportunity, they flourish and thrive,” said Sanneh.

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