Saturday, April 20, 2024

Ten Questions with Tes La Dieu, Hampton & Peninsula Health Districts

Tes La Dieu (photo: Tes La Dieu)

HISTORIC TRIANGLE — “Ten Questions with” is a series that allows readers to get to know local business leaders, volunteers and community members in the Historic Triangle.

This week, meet Tes La Dieu.

What is your job title and description?

I am the Population Health Manager and Public Information Officer for the Hampton & Peninsula Health Districts (HPHD) with Virginia Department of Health.

My work as Population Health Manager consists of oversight over several HPHD programs, including our substance use program, the Community Health Worker Team, the UniteUs social needs referral platform, our community health assessment, and several health equity initiatives.

My work as the Public Information Officer consists of notifying the public and media of health alerts and advisories.

Who do you work with on a regular basis?

Outside of HPHD staff and my team, I work with several community partners and community members on a regular basis. I am in this line of work because I am passionate about helping my community. The only way to do that is to build connections with the people who live, work, and play in the localities we serve. It is imperative to include the insight and feedback of those who will be impacted by our services if we want it to be sustainable. I believe the key to successful programming is to be inclusive and of every diverse group and population’s voice from the start, and not as an afterthought.

How do you/your organization interact with the local community?

The Population Health department at HPHD oversees the substance use and opioid response program, Project LEAD, the Community Health Assessment and Community Health Improvement Plan (CHA-CHIP), social services screenings through UniteUs, COVID-19 vaccination clinics, and a Community Health Worker team.

It is important that we incorporate health equity into all aspects of our work, as well as ensuring our work is data driven and community oriented. When we start our initiatives, we reach out to community organizations and community members who represent different populations, communities, and services. We have focus groups, steering committees, and partner meetings to identify the needs and best practices for our work.

Our Community Health Worker team is often directly out in the community, attending events and providing outreach, education, and training on several health topics. Our team conducts social needs screenings and refers clients for anything from food and housing services to education and employment programs. We also offer REVIVE! training, Narcan distribution, and work with our EMS partners to provide harm reduction resource kits.

How can the local community best access your resources?

There are several ways to access our services, but I find the best way to access our services is to go to our website. From there, you can see all our locations, phone numbers, and the services we provide.

HPHD offers childhood immunizations, COVID-19 vaccinations, STI and Family Planning clinical services, substance use programming, social needs services, Vital Records, Environmental Health, Maternal Child Health programming, Medicaid Pre-Admission Screenings, and more.

What is something about your job most people wouldn’t know about?

HPHD serves six localities: The Cities of Poquoson, Williamsburg, Hampton, and Newport News, and the Counties of James City and York.

How do you define success?

Success is incredibly subjective. In the field of public health, we frequently use data to measure our success. ‘Did we see overdose deaths go down by a certain amount after we created an intervention?’ This is incredibly useful, and an important metric. However, I also like to think of other measures that may define success. Were we inclusive of our entire population? Did we include a high level of equity in our work? Were we able to decrease stigma on a certain topic, and raise the awareness of a community? Did our community members feel heard and were their suggestions included? There is sometimes a utilitarian approach in public health where we have to make huge change to define it as success, but sometimes, changing the life and educating one person can make you walk away feeling like the most successful person in the world.

What is your most successful accomplishment to date?

Something I am incredibly proud of is Project LEAD, HPHD’s first substance use and opioid response program. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, I read a report which showed how the isolation and impact of COVID-19 increased substance use and overdose death rates and had a severe impact on people’s mental health. I started working on a loose outline of what a substance use program could look like at the health district, and in 2019, successfully applied for funding to get the program started. I practice what I preach — so I spent most of my time at the beginning working with community organizations and community members to identify top needs, get invaluable input, and I leaned on the subject matter experts who have been doing this work much longer than me. I think what makes me so proud of Project LEAD is that it is innovative — we don’t just connect people to treatment services; we look at the holistic health and social needs of a person. We have also strived to build connections between over 70 organizations in our area, increase data standardization, improve health equity, and decrease stigma. I have since hired a Project LEAD Coordinator, who has grown the program even more, and I am proud of how far we have come, and how far we will continue to grow.

(Photo: Tes La Dieu)

How long have you lived in the Historic Triangle? What is your favorite part of living here?

I have lived in the Hampton Roads area almost my entire life and have worked in and around the Historic Triangle for almost 5 years. I am fortunate to live in an area that is rich in history, has stunning outdoor views, and delicious food. I am also thankful to live close by to lots of family, which is important to me.

What do you do for downtime/to relax?

I recently became a certified Master Gardener, and enjoy planting native plants, focusing on biodiversity, and growing herbs and veggies. I also enjoy reading and playing guitar. However, you’ll most likely find me playing Dungeons and Dragons with my husband and friends.

What is the next step in your journey?
Right now, I am focused and very passionate about my work with Hampton & Peninsula Health Districts. I am eager to build out more programming and improve outreach and accessibility of our services to the community. I look forward to all that can be accomplished with the joint efforts of our dedicated HPHD staff and community partners!

Do you want to learn more about your community and the people who live and work in the Historic Triangle? We are looking for people with interesting jobs, super volunteers, or community leaders to showcase. Reach out to let us know if you (or someone you know) would like to be considered for Ten Questions.

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