Neighborhood Feasts Break Down Tall Walls in Avondale

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Sometimes, powerful paradigm shifts are rooted in the simplest of rituals: breaking bread. BIF is thrilled to share that neighborhood feasts - a solution our Patient Experience Lab designed in partnership with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and the community of Avondale, to address the human factors of preterm birth - are facilitating greater connectivity among Avondale mothers, providers, and community stakeholders, and were highlighted at this year’s Mayo Transform by maternal fetal medicine specialist, Dr. Michael Marcotte.

In September 2013, BIF’s Patient Experience Lab partnered with Cincinnati Children’s to explore preterm birth, a key contributing factor to the Avondale community’s high infant mortality rate. We employed ethnographic research methods to collect the narratives of mothers, fathers, and community stakeholders, creating a nuanced picture of the conditions that shape pregnancy for women in Avondale. From this deep understanding, we identified several insights into the potential for improving pregnancy outcomes - among them, the value of social networks in providing resources, lending needed support, connecting women with positive role models, and breaking down tall institutional walls to build a culture of trust and mutual accountability.

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The idea that trusted relationships are an essential ingredient in changemaking - or in improving health outcomes - is not new. What is more novel and exciting is to witness a community taking tangible steps to build them. BIF’s partnership with Cincinnati Children’s culminated in the co-design of solution models and methods; Dr. Marcotte’s Transform presentation shared that, since 2014, Avondale mothers, providers, and community organizations have collaborated to bring the model for neighborhood feasts to life.

In 16 months, the feasts have grown to attract groups of 30-40 community members and providers, and are free of any agenda other than for participants to share a meal and get to know one another. Marcotte reflected that a conversation he shared at a neighborhood feast with a mother expecting twins - he shared the story of his daughter’s birth, she shared her hopes and fears for delivery - later created a more personal connection within the hospital’s four walls, when he happened to be on-call doctor attending to her delivery.

At BIF, we’re always urging innovators to get off the whiteboard and into the real world, to take advantage of purposeful networks to “start more stuff.” The growth of neighborhood feasts, as gatherings that attract community members and providers alike, demonstrates how collaborating to imagine, design, and test new ideas creates shared value. And a symptom of shared value? A sense of connectivity, as enduring across contexts and environments as the fulfillment from a shared meal.

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To learn more about BIF's collaboration with Cincinnati Children's and the work of the Avondale community, visit the project website.

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