Values-driven and community-led public health

As a public health department, Louisiana Department of Health’s STD/HIV/Hepatitis Program (SHHP) had a goal to engage with constituencies and partners differently, breaking the hierarchy of government, shifting to a shared ownership model.

Woman Community Service
“No detail went untouched; the details mattered.”

The Challenge

After the Louisiana Office of Public Health's STD/HIV/Hepatitis Program (SHHP) rolled up their sleeves to articulate a clear vision and organizational values, they saw an opportunity to reconnect with communities with these new guiding principles which included community, humility, and openness. Like health departments across the country, the SHHP team was navigating the extreme challenges of the pandemic to meet the needs of its residents and contain growing health inequities.

The Approach

Having facilitated the vision and values process for SHHP, we were eager to lean in with them once again. Our team designed a community engagement effort which, at its core, was aimed to strengthen the relationship with its partners across the state. We worked closely with SHHP regional coordinators based in counties around the state to design community conversations that would invite community partners to listen and learn together.

No detail went untouched. We heard the regional directors’ advice that the details mattered. After carefully curating everything from venue and timing to Cajun/Creole food and table settings, we added special touches to create spaces that felt uniquely NOLA, Baton Rouge, Shreveport, and Lafayette.

The partner organizations opened their doors to us, welcoming SHHP leaders and our team into residences, clinics and libraries to hear firsthand the community vision for health, their pride in their work, and how SHHP could best support their efforts. We gathered at local libraries and residential facilities with the only aim of building relationships and trust. We shared space, eating together at beautifully decorated tables, sharing stories and ideas over delicious, local flavors.

This roadshow went beyond community engagement - it was a rekindling of longstanding partnerships - and its success was entirely thanks to the local hospitality, true partnership, and the spirit of “Big Easy.”

From this process, Future Caucus gained a clearer focus on building a constituency for inclusive governing and amplifying new narratives.

The Results

When the goal is relationships, the success metrics are whether folks were seen and heard, and whether new connections were formed. 

The conversations at each stop centered on how SHHP can best serve their partners and work with them to end the impacts of HIV, STI and hepatitis in Louisiana. Per our design, SHHP leaders talked less and listened more - about visions for their communities and how to expand accessibility and awareness of their programs. They learned about the challenges these community-based organizations faced and how SHHP can be more effective in supporting their missions. These face-to-face conversations invited all who were a part to be open and honest, which allowed for a deeper dialogue and understanding of the needs of these partners and the communities they serve.

As a state health department, it can be hard to maintain close relationships with all of your partners and grantees. Over time, this can lead to misconceptions and false narratives held by all sides. To make sure that we all walked away with more than a list of requests, we reflected with SHHP about what they heard and how they would build these learnings into their strategic plan. We also gathered SHHP and the community partners a few weeks after the tour to share what we heard and gather their reactions and feedback. This was a critical step in reaffirming the significance of this engagement, and to continue to lead with SHHP’s values of trust and transparency.

As we continue our work with SHHP, we know they are working hard to continuously reflect what they heard in how they show up with their partners, and to provide the space for ongoing collaboration. This is central to their mission and this process has created a new channel to co-design initiatives that eliminate related health inequities and stigma for all communities in Louisiana.

From this process, Future Caucus gained a clearer focus on building a constituency for inclusive governing and amplifying new narratives.

 “Deeper dialogue led to shared understanding and stronger relationships.”

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