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Crow Wing County works to build self-healing community

Staff members at Crow Wing County Community Services are working with Bridges of Hope to research and build a self-healing community.

The idea is to engage the public, inspire innovation, support peer-helping and ease the daily stress of parents to promote change so that together communities can better protect and nurture the next generation.

The self-healing communities model is designed to build a community capacity to improve outcomes for health and social issues by reducing and preventing adverse childhood experiences. By promoting community and culture change, self-healing communities can help reduce youth and family problems including suicide, juvenile offenses and dropout rates while developing strong networks that promote greater collaboration across the community.

"This will help us work together with the communities we serve to develop the skills and supports necessary for individuals to become empowered and make changes in their own neighborhoods," Kara Terry, community services director, said in a news release. "It ... uses data to decide how and where to focus our efforts.

Crow Wing County's model will focus on high-needs areas.

This initiative will lead to an increase of employable people, which will benefit local businesses facing work shortages. More stable families will also lead to a decrease in adverse childhood experiences, which will reduce the risk of future generations experiencing the same outcomes as their parents. Research shows that as the number of adverse childhood experiences increases, so does the risk of chemical use, depression and financial stress.

Every three years, Crow Wing Energized conducts a survey of adults in the county. The second of those surveys was distributed in the fall of 2017, with more than 1,000 people responding. Results continue to show that almost 90 percent of the adults in Crow Wing County feel their health is good to excellent. But when actual health conditions are reported, survey results show that two-thirds of the population is overweight or obese, and 25-40 percent have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, mental health conditions and arthritis. Results also indicated that two-thirds of adults are not eating five or more fruits or vegetables a day, nor are they getting the recommended physical activity.

Tobacco used increased in the past three years from 17.6 percent to 23.3 percent. Less than half of cigarette smokers indicated they are trying to quit. Tobacco users report higher rates of obesity, depression and anxiety.

Terry said the self-healing initiative will lead to a healthier community overall.

"The educational system will likely benefit from better attendance and increased graduation rates. Law enforcement, the courts and the jail will benefit from decreased crime both in juvenile and adult populations. Community providers will benefit from a deeper connection to the community and increased awareness of the services that are available to help individuals who are in need of support," she said.

Organizers of the self-healing communities models anticipate the implementation to take 24-36 months and hope to see outcomes in three to five years.