Data science, human services elevated within Pillsbury United leadership

An update from our leadership team

Pillsbury United Communities is pleased to announce several key moves in the agency’s executive leadership team, including the creation of a new executive-level position centered around data science and evaluation.

Tsega Tamene has stepped into the newly established role of Head of Data Science & Evaluation. In this role, she stewards Pillsbury United’s vision and strategy to activate data for impact—transforming how the agency defines, captures, and implements data toward systems change. She previously served as Senior Director of Population Health.

“Data will drive the evolution of our organization and our transformative impact in community,” says Adair Mosley, President & CEO of Pillsbury United Communities. “Pillsbury United Communities seeks to have a population-level impact on systems that create more equitable and just outcomes for our communities. Tsega, with her population health background, will drive upstream change and targeted and predictive program and services.”

Accompanying this new role, several additional Pillsbury United leaders have been named to new or elevated roles.

Ethan Neal has been named to the newly created position of Director of Food Systems. In this role, he oversees all of the agency’s food programs, including food shelves, community meal programs, and urban agriculture, and he drives all of the agency’s efforts towards the creation of a local, sustainable, equitable food system. He previously served as Food Systems Manager.

Awol Windissa has been named to the position of Director of Community Health. In this role, he oversees all community health and wellness programs, with a particular focus on removing barriers to health; promoting wellness; reducing disparities; and implementing place-based, community-centered and culturally-relevant approaches. Awol previously served as Community Health Manager at Brian Coyle Center.

Additionally, current leadership team members Miski Abdulle and Vickie Besch have received promotions to Director of Immigrant Services and Director of Community Accessibility, respectively.

Click here to view Pillsbury United’s strategic framework and learn more about our agency’s strategic priorities.

Jihan Rashid named Director of Community Health Worker Hub

Community health worker and community members meeting outside Brian Coyle Center

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — Pillsbury United Communities has named Jihan Rashid as Director of Community Health Worker Hub.

In this role, Jihan will oversee the agency’s Community Health Worker Hub, a new initiative aimed at elevating the role of community health workers in providing culturally informed, holistic, and coordinated care for communities that have been historically underserved by traditional health care systems.

As part of this effort, Jihan will drive the agency’s adoption of the Pathways Community HUB framework, a certified, evidence-based model for community care coordination that will reduce costs, improve health care outcomes, and center the cultural knowledge of community health workers. This work is being undertaken in partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield, the Minnesota Community Health Worker Alliance, and many local health care systems.

“The Pathways Community HUB’s care coordination system is vital for our communities,” said Rashid, “Because it centers strong community relationships through community health workers, upholds accountability for outcome of health and wellness services, and emphasizes care for the most vulnerable in our communities.

“Jihan brings to Pillsbury United a breadth of experience in public health, Medicaid transformation, coalition-building, and community participation in systems change,” said Tsega Tamene, Senior Director of Population Health at Pillsbury United Communities. “She understands the critical gaps and opportunities in healthcare sustainability. We are excited for her vision and leadership to drive this work.”

Jihan has been committed to public health since high school and has worked with a vast array of public health issues (including nutrition, HIV, lead exposure, and air pollution) through research, program management, and public health education.

In her past role as a program coordinator with the Somali Health Board, Jihan facilitated a one-of-a-kind community-led health model, supporting it from its infancy to its establishment as a community-based organization. Subsequently, she drove the establishment of a coalition of like-minded community health boards to collaborate across communities. In addition to her work in program management, community engagement, research and policy-system advocacy, she has also worked as a caregiver, tutor, peer educator, and victim advocate.

Health fairs offer knowledge and connection in Phillips and Cedar Riverside

Health worker at Waite House health fair

It’s a beautiful August day: sunny, a few clouds, not too hot. Outside Waite House in the Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis, more than a hundred of our neighbors are listening to music (courtesy of KRSM Radio), jumping in an inflatable bounce house, and catching up with their friends. Conversations waft through the air, a sampling of the hundred-plus languages spoken by residents of one of our city’s most diverse communities.

Although the vibe is casual and friendly, the occasion today is a serious one: Today is the Phillips Health Fair, and health is on everyone’s mind. Here, and at a similar event at Brian Coyle Center in Cedar Riverside earlier this month, more than 40 partner organizations have assembled to share their knowledge and resources with the community.

By connecting our neighbors to local health care resources, we eliminate barriers to access and give them the tools to take a more active role in the care that they and their families receive. But it goes deeper than that. Social connectedness is a powerful predictor of overall health outcomes; people are healthier when they talk to their neighbors.

According to Tsega Tamene, director of community health at Pillsbury United Communities, this is the critical role the health fairs serve. “We’re creating a space for people to connect, to learn, to play,” she says.

And in a space where so much of the conversation around community health focuses on the health disparities that exist within indigenous communities and communities of color, the Phillips and Coyle health fairs provide a platform for the individuals and organizations who are already working towards a solution. Rather than creating new efforts and duplicative work, Tamene says the health fairs succeed by “lifting up resources that are already there in the community.”

Tamene is quick to point out that the health fairs couldn’t happen without dedicated organizers—Jovita and Awol, at Waite House and Brian Coyle respectively—driving new partnerships at the local level and activating the grassroots energy of their friends, colleagues, and neighbors. It all comes down to the relationships our center staff have built throughout the community.

Ultimately, our health fairs are one solution within a multifaceted approach to community health. As researchers in the field of public health can tell us, the health of our communities is impacted by any number of factors, from education, to food access, to transportation. It’s hard to deny that these systems have failed many of our neighbors. But despite the complex challenges that our communities are living with, it’s clear that a dedicated effort is underway—and for one August afternoon in Phillips and Cedar Riverside, we get a brief glimpse of what a healthier and more connected future looks like.

(Click here for photos from the Brian Coyle Health Fair.)

Buraanbur builds connections, brings healing

Buraanbur at Brian Coyle Center

Taking care of your health doesn’t necessarily equate to making routine stops at the doctor’s office. Being healthy and feeling well, safe, and secure requires looking at a bigger picture—focusing on how our everyday lives, work, environment, and choices influence our well-being.

For East African women in the Cedar Riverside neighborhood, one way of fostering health and healing has been through a form of dance and poetry native to Somalia: buraanbur. From January through June of this year, about 20 women regularly attended buraanbur dance classes at the Brian Coyle Center hosted by the Immigrant Women’s Advocacy Program (IWAP). This opportunity was made possible through a special partnership with The Cedar Cultural Center and The City of Minneapolis Health Department, and was sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts. The classes served multiple purposes. Not only were they a way for women to improve their physical health by exercising, but they were also an opportunity to break isolation and build relationships—all while being rooted in their culture.

“We come together here twice a week. We socialize; we dance; we sweat; and we laugh. If someone doesn’t come to the session, we ask each other, ‘Where is so and so?’ and check up on them. We care for each other and have become more than just neighbors. We dance together whilst feeling connected to my culture like it was back in my home country,” one participant said.

Miski Abdulle, our Director of Immigrant Services, touched on how they were not just dance sessions, but also ‘healing sessions’ for some participants who are survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence, the population that IWAP primarily works with. This type of cultural healing “heals the soul,” she said. Participants spoke to her about feeling lighter and sleeping and eating better than before. Some said:

“I get to exercise, be active. And this is good for my mental health too because I feel happy here. It’s a place for women to be together. This is just like family to me.”

“I have become good friends with the women here and I feel a sense of community support and togetherness.”

“I have been coming to these buraanbur sessions because it is a fun place to be. I get to see the same faces, people who are my neighbors. I get to laugh with them, exercise, and enjoy my culture.”

A sense of belonging and community. Cultural connectedness and healing. Artistic expression. These are all pieces in our vision for thriving communities. Because we don’t just want our communities to be healthy; we want them to be well. And that requires looking at the bigger picture.

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