Online Program

Improving refugee health and social connectedness through church gardens

Monday, November 2, 2015 : 8:45 a.m. - 9:00 a.m.

Meghan Mason, PhD, MPH, Department of Public Health, St. Catherine University, St. Paul, MN
Kari Hartwig, DrPH, MA, Masters of Physician Assistant Studies, St. Catherine University, St. Paul, MN
background: The Twin Cities of Minnesota are home to many refugee and immigrant populations, largely due to the numerous resettlement agencies in the metropolitan area. One agency initiated a community gardening project in 2010 in which churches volunteer to convert their lawns to gardens for use by refugee families. This study reports on the quantitative findings of a recent evaluation of the project during the 2014 season.

methods: The broader mixed method evaluation made use of surveys, focus groups, and interviews in the native language of the gardeners (Karen, Nepali, or English), as needed. The pre- and post-gardening season surveys measured gardeners’ demographic characteristics, vegetable intake, mental health and social connectedness. Chi-squared and ANOVA tests were used to evaluate the differences in these measures between survey periods.

results: Of the 216 gardeners, 44% completed the pre-gardening survey and 45% completed the post-gardening survey. There was a significant increase in the proportion of refugee gardeners that reported eating vegetables throughout the day, every day, from 64.1% to 77.8% from the start to end of the season (p=0.02). Refugee gardeners reported greater social connectedness as measured by greeting neighbors, sharing drinks with neighbors, and working with other community members in the garden at the churches with larger gardens than those with small or medium-sized gardens as measured at the end of the study period.   

conclusions: Church-sponsored gardens may contribute to increased vegetable intake and social connections among refugee and church gardeners for a healthier resettlement both physically and emotionally.

Learning Areas:

Conduct evaluation related to programs, research, and other areas of practice

Learning Objectives:
Describe the mental and social challenges refugees face upon arrival in the United States in a metropolitan area. Identify which social connectedness measures improved among refugee gardeners from the start of the gardening season through the end of the harvest. Discuss the transferability of the use of church gardens to improve the health of other marginalized populations in metropolitan areas.

Keyword(s): Refugees, Immigrant Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have worked closely with the PI on this project as a statistical consultant. My primary research has been in international settings working with marginalized urban populations, not unlike the experiences of refugees in the United States.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.