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Allina Health launches healthy neighborhoods program

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A new initiative kicking off at the Minneapolis Farmers Market on Sunday hopes to support healthy communities.

Allina Health said its new Neighborhood Health Connection program will allow community members to apply for grants to support activities like building a community garden or starting a yoga group. They can also ask Allina to come to their neighborhood to give free health screenings or set up a fitness challenge using pedometers.

Dr. Courtney Jordan Baechler, medical director of the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing at Allina Health, said the program builds on research suggesting neighborhood health initiatives can work.

"There's 50 years of research showing that people do best when they connect with others, that it's a great way to promote positive changes and make people healthier and happier," she said.

People don't have to be Allina Health customers to participate in the program, which will be available in the communities Allina hospitals and clinics serve. Allina Health is making $100,000 dollars in grants available.

Jordan Baechler said Allina Health wanted to go beyond caring for people in a hospital or clinic setting.

"As health care changes we know we do a great job of taking care of people when they're sick, but we want to really promote keeping people well," she said. "This is the first attempt at actually getting outside of our hospital buildings and clinics and into the community where we know that the changes are really the most likely to succeed."

The first 500 families attending the kickoff event on Sunday will receive free wellness kits that include things like pedometers and vegetable seeds for planting. Other events are planned around Minnesota and western Wisconsin in the coming weeks.