There’s no question that good health goes beyond the doors of clinics and hospitals. The research continues to consistently show that the ability to live your healthiest life is significantly defined by your environments. It isn’t efficient, nor realistic, for providers to tell their patients that they need to eat more whole foods to reduce their risk of chronic diseases and then have them return to their neighborhood where the nearest grocery store is 30 miles away. Supportive and accessible environments and systems need to be implemented in the community to allow all populations to thrive and be their healthiest.

Community Health

Windom Area Health is engaging with community organizations and individuals who are dedicated to improving wellness in the lives of Cottonwood County residents and have formed a community wellness group. By combining our patients’ aggregated medical record information with consumer market data available, we have the ability to focus on our riskiest populations and social determinants of health that are present in our county. We are using that information as a roadmap to facilitate conversations and collaborations with key individuals and organizations to promote current systems available and identify gaps where programming is needed. At this time, our highest social determinant of health risk factors are unassimilated populations, food insecurity, and uninsured populations.

Up to this point, the majority of our community group’s efforts have been focused on food insecurity; we’ve realized that while there are programs available, the community is not always aware of these programs. Therefore simply promoting these programs and making them more accessible needs to be a priority. However, in the past year since launching the collaborative, the prevalence of unassimilated populations has increased in our county to become our highest social determinant of health risk factor in our communities.

When we talk of the phrase unassimilated populations, we are referring to the pockets of the population that do not have true roots in our area and, as a result, may not be familiar with our community’s resources. This significant increase can be attributed to the successful efforts of recruiting workers to our area, which is great for our local economy, but also brings forth a crop of relocation issues to help these workers adjust to their new environments. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the basic physiological needs such as air, water, food, shelter, sleep, and clothing need to be met before individuals can attempt to create meaningful connections and an understanding of their place in the world. The hierarchy’s base are these physiological needs and the top of the pyramid ends in self actualizations which lead to better overall health and sense of belonging. Some examples of these basic needs include securing permanent housing, providing basic house furnishings, and introducing new residents to established community resources.

The BARC has played an integral role in opening up their doors for donors to drop off basic home furnishings for anyone in need. The City of Windom has worked with local realtors to secure housing for relocated workers and many other organizations are stepping up to assist in acquiring the basic necessities to allow humans to survive and, ideally, thrive in their environment. In this age of social distancing, I implore individuals and organizations to think creatively of how they can help welcome Cottonwood County “outsiders” to our area by providing services and assistance to highlight what Minnesota nice is all about.

By Amber Hughes

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