Celebrating the Marshallese Community While Improving Mental Health, Belonging & Connectedness


Photo credit: Stephen Gassman, Telegraph Herald

In celebration of National Minority Mental Health Awareness during July, NACHC’s SDOH Team would like to feature Crescent Community Health Center (CCHC) in Dubuque, Iowa. In the spring of 2021, CCHC and their partners at the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque (CFGD) participated in the 2021 Design Sprints on cross-sector partnerships for health equity. Through the design sprint process, the team identified that they wanted to work with Pacific Islander youth on understanding the health conditions within their community, and the factors that were contributing to poor health outcomes. Additionally, CCHC and CFGD saw this as an opportunity to engage with Pacific Islander youth in a meaningful way that could drive their growth, development, and engagement in the community.  

CCHC and CFGD recently reached out to NACHC’s SDOH Team to provide an update on how they’ve built upon the learnings and efforts from the 2021 design sprint, and the impact on the community at large. First, Alex Baum from CFGD spoke at the Marshallese Constitution Day Celebration in Dubuque, which attracted members of the Marshallese community from near and far to celebrate. This annual celebration is brought to life the findings of CFGD’s 2023 Immigration Community Assessment, particularly the recommendation to engage and celebrate growing immigrant communities throughout the greater Dubuque region. This community event was an opportunity for the Marshallese to share their history and culture with the greater community at large, which is so important as the Marshallese community continues to grow in the Midwest.  

Second, Gary Collins from CCHC shared about a newly formed partnership with Clarke University. The goal of the partnership was to engage health center patients in creating small doodles and drawings while they were in the waiting room prior to their appointment. The doodles and drawings would then be used by art students at Clarke University to create larger pieces of art that would be used throughout the health center as well as a mural in the newly expanded section of the health center. Both CCHC and Clarke University acknowledge the impact of art to celebrate culture but more importantly, the impact of art on an individual’s healing and well-being 

The collective efforts of CCHC, CFGD, and Clarke University illustrate the importance and power of cross-sector partnerships, engaging with community members, and intentionally strategizing on how to increase a sense of belonging amongst cultural groups. Furthermore, their efforts bring help to increase a sense of belonging and civic engagement, both of which are critical components of the Vital Conditions Framework. When individuals with diverse cultural identities feel welcomed in their communities, they are more likely to become active and engaged members of their communities, experience less stigma and discrimination, and can access culturally and linguistically inclusive care. Each can be a protective factor in terms of increasing social connectedness and ensuring overall emotional and mental well-being. More importantly, these factors are critical for individuals with mental health conditions that require the support of a care team. It is well known that many people from various racial, ethnic, and cultural identities experience more barriers to mental health services and support. The efforts from CCHC, CFGD, and Clarke University serve as potential promising practices to increase individual and community mental health wellness, belonging, and connectedness.  

The NACHC SDOH Team would love to hear from you and your health center on your efforts to promote belonging and civic engagement in your community. Please contact us at prapare@nachc.org.    

Author: Yuriko de la Cruz, NACHC