Not only do our friends affect our blood pressure, but our social connections can influence our levels of stress, how our immune systems respond, and possibly even our susceptibility to chronic disease.
Connect for Health Challenge entrants and others gathered around the state to build relationships and discover new ways to help connect people to improve their health.
Melanie Ferris, Wilder Research,(pictured right) framed the issues at these gatherings. Melanie explained that lack of connections constitutes a risk factor for obesity, high blood pressure, cancer, and diabetes. In addition, as we might expect, isolated people – whether rich or poor, old or young, male or female – report more depression, although the poor and the elderly do report negative impacts of social isolation more often than do other groups.
Using data from Minnesota Compass, Melanie noted:
Compass researchers Jane Tigan and Allison Churilla added regional context, again using Compass data to show how each region compared to the state, and also pointing to county and city data (see links at left for Twin Cities profiles; go to Regions dropdown at top of page for profiles of other regions, their counties and cities) to help people better understand how to create an environment that encouraged community connections.
An array of projects were honored by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation, sponsors of the Connect for Health Challenge, ranging from cross-cultural opportunities for youth to make their neighborhood safer to intergenerational efforts including horticultural and cooking gatherings.
Carolyn Link, Executive Director, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation, recognizes a challenge entrant in Rochester.
Honoree Kathy Bogan, stays after the gathering to share the experience of Grant Community School Collaborative with Kamau Njoki, University of Minnesota Duluth
Representatives from the Native American Somali Peacemakers project, winners of the $100,000 challenge, pose with their recognition certificate at the Twin Cities event.
What do churches, libraries, and Facebook have in common? They are places people connect and build relationships. After identifying who could help promote positive social connections, participants had lively discussions on the pros and cons of different approaches to doing so. The World Cafe facilitators had gone through the InCommons Art of Hosting training.