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Love as a Public Health Strategy

EPISODE 26

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Communities are what build up our society, and a strong community is built by looking out for the person next to you. In this week's episode, we talk with Alisa Howard, a public health servant leader, to discuss trust and love within a community. Think this doesn't apply to business? Think again. 

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Feel the love! We aren't experts - we're practitioners. With a passion that's a mix of equal parts strategy and love, we explore the human (and fun) side of work and business every week together.

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Jeff Ma
Host

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Alisa Howard
Public Health Servant Leader

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Mohammad Anwar
President

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ChrisProfile

Chris Pitre
Vice President

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Transcript

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Jeff Ma
Hello and welcome to Love as a Business Strategy, a podcast that brings humanity to the workplace. We're here to talk about business, but we want to tackle topics that most business leaders shy away from. We believe that humanity and love should be at the center of every successful business. I'm your host, Jeff Ma, and I'm a director at Softway, a company that helps businesses connect with their people to build resilience through culture-building products, leadership development, and technology. Today, I'm also joined by our president and CEO at Softway, Mohammad Anwar. Hello, Mohammad.

Mohammad Anwar
Hello, Jeff.

Jeff Ma
And also Vice President, Chris Pitre. Hey, Chris.

Chris Pitre
Hey, Jeff.

Jeff Ma
Guys, as you know, each episode we dive into one element of business or strategy, and test our theory of love against it. And we've often touched or even dove into topics in and around healthcare, we even have episodes specifically around it and, and how culture and love applies there. But as I learned very recently, in my ignorance, public health is a very different topic. And there's a lot for us to take away from this topic. I'm really excited to learn from our guest today. So I'd like to welcome to the show. Alisa Howard, a public health servant leader and owner of Minority Health Consultants, Alisa, how are you today?

Alisa Howard
I'm good, Jeff, how are you?

Jeff Ma
Great. And I'm going to give you a chance to introduce yourself in a little bit. But before that, we have to get one thing out of the way. We do some icebreakers. Imagine me kind of tearing open an envelope because I never get to see these until this very moment right now. But luckily, you can go last, Alisa, so we'll start with Chris. Chris, you have to sing karaoke, what song do you pick?

Chris Pitre
That's a good one. So there's songs that I admire, and there's songs that I can actually deliver. I think this is important. You got to break it down, you can't just jump into an answer. You got to help people arrive with you at the same place. So as far as me I have to go with songs that are in my pocket. So let's see. Hmm,

Jeff Ma
One of these days we're gonna get a straight answer to one of these questions.

Chris Pitre
No, you're not. That would not be Chris if I did that. So I think my go to would be...

Jeff Ma
This is way more airtime than we should be spending on this. I'm about to move... oh my god.

Chris Pitre
I'm stuck because I'm like what song do I go to?

Jeff Ma
A not to our executive producer here we need to change we need to give Chris like, what's your favorite number or something.

Chris Pitre
Executive producer, don't listen to this. This is where inclusion should pick in and we should be thinking of ways to support me in this. Anyway.

Jeff Ma
We'll come back. Mohammad, what is your favorite tradition or holiday?

Mohammad Anwar
I think it would have to be Thanksgiving. Because of all the food I get to eat and the variety of food and I get to cheat and and you know you're off while you're cheating. So you get to eat more.

Jeff Ma
You do know that you can cheat anytime of the year right? You can literally just put food in your mouth.

Mohammad Anwar
It's just something, I think I think eating during Thanksgiving is not looked down upon. I think it's more acceptable like everybody let's see how a cheat pass you know, like no one's judging you. No one's no one's looking at you be like, Oh, I can't believe he ate all that much. Everybody's expected to eat at this time. So I think I like it.

Jeff Ma
Good answer. Alisa, what book, movie, or TV show have you read or watched recently that you would recommend and why?

Alisa Howard
So I wanted Chris' question, but since I didn't get that...

Chris Pitre
I have the answer now, by the way.

Alisa Howard
Yes. No, the notebook. That's one of my favorite movies and then the book is even more awesome because I'm a writer as well. So I love words. So yes.

Jeff Ma
Awesome. Fun fact, I worked at a movie theater in my younger years when that movie came out. And I would part of my job was to stand outside the doors, the theater with a tissue box of tissues.

Alisa Howard
Really?

Jeff Ma
Yeah, literally. It's a tear jerker. It's great.

Alisa Howard
Was that just for the women or was that for everyone?

Jeff Ma
Everyone, I mean it was for myself.

Alisa Howard
Perfect.

Jeff Ma
Chris. Karaoke song. Hit me.

Chris Pitre
Okay. Patsy Kline, 'Walking after Midnight'.

Jeff Ma
Give me one verse.

Chris Pitre
On the spot? Like, y'all didn't pay for this. I did not get any payment for this.

Jeff Ma
Okay, go do your vocal chord exercises, we'll come back to that too. Alisa, since ou asked for it, what's your karaoke song?

Alisa Howard
I'm your baby tonight Whitney Houston.

Jeff Ma
Oh, I like. Well, I'm not gonna make you sing.

Alisa Howard
Thank you. I'm not here for that.

Chris Pitre
That cost extra.

Jeff Ma
I would like to put you on stage a little bit, because I'd love if you could share a little bit about yourself, your background and what you work on for for us to get to know you a little bit.

Alisa Howard
Sure. So I'm a public health professional will dive more into that a little bit. But I've been in this field for nine years, I've worked in areas like infectious diseases, HIV, tuberculosis, STDs, Hep C, hepatitis C, and so all of those sexual diseases, but also tuberculosis. And so COVID is kind of in my scope of work right now. And then I've dived into chronic diseases. So hypertension, diabetes, and I'm mainly a health educator, I take all the information that I've learned, and I've turned it into a business. And so now I do public health consulting. And so now I work with stakeholders who have a vested interest in working with minority communities to bring health education, policy, and basically equity and equality to those communities.

Jeff Ma
Awesome, awesome. Amazing. And, as I mentioned, kind of in the opening, I felt very, like, ignorant in this space, when we first chatted briefly around public health, because I much like I would assume many people in the world don't really understand what public health is. And to be honest, I still don't so please, what is could you please just start us off with what is public health? And how is it different from like health care or just health in general?

Alisa Howard
So Jeff, you're not alone in this. I actually had no idea nine years ago about public health, I literally was told to come down. My friend said, Hey, we're hiring for administrative assistant. And I was in school at the time. And did you want a job? And I'm like, okay, and I go into this public health office, and I'm like, what do you do here? There's no blood, right? And they said, No, there's not this is what public health is. And basically, they explained to me that public health is the opposite side of healthcare. So basically, it works inclusive with health care, but it's not blood related. So basically, we do the health education into the communities is population health is community health. Public Health encompasses so many different areas, environmental health, so all of the things that you hear about the environment, all of that is public health, anything that affects the public. So just think of it as that public at large. And then healthcare itself is actually one is individual. So you go to your healthcare provider as an individual, you don't go as a community. So just think of it that way.

Mohammad Anwar
So I have another clarifying thought there is also public health focused on prevention versus the cure while healthcare is focused on cure. Would that be the right way to look at it?

Alisa Howard
Absolutely. So public health is focused on prevention and early intervention. Healthcare is more focused on let's get you the treatment that you need, which is intervention, but we try to stop anything that causes any kind of public health concerns, such as COVID, before it happens.

Mohammad Anwar
Got it.

Jeff Ma
So I guess one good place to start kind of diving into public health here as a topic is talking about problems. And I'd love to hear about an off the top of your head, the major or the top few kind of problems that you face in this in the field of public health right now.

Alisa Howard
So I would say one of the main problems we face is getting community involved in their own health, you would think that it would, you know, be simple if people are offering free programs, free immunization shots, free flu shots right now, but actually, I'm working on a flu campaign with the Local Health District here. And I'm working with trying to get the African American community vaccinated with the flu vaccine because of COVID. The comorbidity of that is going to be outrageous. And so we're trying to be ahead of the curve, which is what public health is, and we're having a very hard time because of stigma, because of all of the political things that have been happening around COVID. It has gone into the community, it has seeped into the community. I like to say just that. That idea of this could be possibly a COVID vaccine and just trying to experiment on us on. I've heard it all I've heard the government made that in It's not the same flu shot, and why do we have to get the flu shot? Now people are actually questioning a flu shot when we've actually been getting the flu shot since 1918, since the Spanish Flu came and kind of destroyed the world at that time, then that's when public health jumped in. And now we have a vaccine for flu shots that we get every single year. And now everyone's like, No, I don't want it may not be the same. And so I would say community and getting them involved in public health is probably one of the biggest concerns that we have.

Jeff Ma
Is a lot of your time spent in just like, I would I don't wanna say marketing, but in kind of the messaging and communications space, what's that like?

Alisa Howard
Absolutely. It's all about how you market as we can see with this COVID situation, it was not marketed correctly, it was not basically a lot of politics got involved with it with public health and politics should never be involved in a space, it literally is about taking care of people in politics is something completely different, as we know. So those two should never have combined. And because it did, it messed up the mark the messaging. Dr. Fauci, I actually listened to a podcast the other day, where he said the messaging behind COVID was, was destroyed from the very beginning. He said, If we would have had a handle on it from the very beginning, then it wouldn't be so out of control the way that it is. So it's really all about, are you getting the infographics and the information in a real language type of way out to the community, we can't speak, you know, the way that we speak in public health with acronyms and things of that nature, we have to put real language on papers on billboards, simple things, and it's all about one thing, I can definitely say public health has an issue with his marketing. We don't have we don't spend a lot of money in it. When I was a director of HIV program, looking at my budget, I had very little dollars for messaging for marketing in general. And when I asked for more, it was no, we don't spend money in that area. So the messaging is, is so important, because like you, as you can see with the COVID situation, if we would have had the messaging correct from the very beginning, a lot more people will understand that this is a real thing, and how viruses kind of work. And I think that's kind of what's happening right now is a lot of people just don't understand how a virus works.

Jeff Ma
So I guess for this specific problem, like what are what are you actively, I guess working to kind of counteract that, like, what it what it what plays in the public health space that you have to work in?

Alisa Howard
So for me right now, like I said, I'm working on the flu campaign with the Health District, but I'm also working with the Office of Minority Health here in Nevada, on the COVID situation. So doing lots of kind of webinars like this, so that normal regular everyday people who are sitting at home can get on and listen to information that's being that's being displayed, and told. But it's also allowing them to do that. So before we were in a space where you know, when we were out in the world, I like to say, where we had to go to physical meetings. And then if you were a person that's not in public health, you wouldn't come to the meeting. But now that we have this virtual setting, we're inviting more community leaders that have an influence to come to these meetings online. And then they can disseminate the information to their communities, because if at least that they're trusted, then then then it's better chance for them. They may not know me, they may not know the Office of Minority Health, but they know their pastor, if they know their, I don't know, their local leader, their assembly man. And they are you know, they're educated with information and armed, the public will trust them a little bit more.

Chris Pitre
You've used that word twice now. So it sounds like there's a high degree of correlation between trust and public health success, or that intervention or preventative sort of action being taken seriously, if not, you know, successfully implemented. So that's very similar to a lot of the, I think the needs and business communication with employees and you know, internally, like, if there's no trust, then no matter what's said, it doesn't matter, it doesn't take root, it doesn't get adopted, implemented, practiced, whatever. And so I'm curious to know, like from, you know, your experience or examples that you've seen, like, what can you know, public health professionals or just anybody do to build that trust with the relevant or intended communities and audiences that need that information more because they might be at risk or in jeopardy or, you know, compromised in ways that they don't fully understand?

Alisa Howard
Well, they can hire me. Like that plug? Yeah. No, they can hire they, I mean, honestly, it is about utilizing people that come from the communities. Which brings me to I work and teach for the College of Southern Nevada here in Las Vegas as well as an adjunct professor. So I just teach a part time class called community health worker training. And what that is, is that we literally train people from the community. So people that are your local people that people trust people that are you know, big momma, the person that runs the corner store, we literally train those people, because those are the people that are having conversations about everything right? with their customers, they're having conversations about politics, they're having conversations about whether they should get the flu shot, whether COVID is real. And so if we arm them with the actual information and education behind it, and they understand, then they'll be able to disseminate that information to the community, one by one customer, by customer. So hiring people who look like the community, is really the best thing to build trust. And that's why I do what I do. That's why I became a consultant. Because what I saw in the I've had this for almost three years now, what I saw in the last six years, working in nonprofits, working at the Health District, working at the state level, was that there was no one that could go into the community that the community would just take in and say, okay, we like her, we trust her because she looks like us. She speaks our language, she understands what, you know, our dialogue, she understands what we're saying she understands our culture. And that's where community health workers came about. So it's actually a field that's been around for 30 years. We're just now implementing it here in Nevada about four years ago. But it's it's been effective across the entire country to hire people who look like the community, speak their language, be able to talk to the community in a way that they understand and bring that information, you know, down to their level or up to their level, just the point of being able to speak and communicate with them effectively.

Chris Pitre
Got it. That's really interesting.

Mohammad Anwar
Alisa, yeah, I was gonna ask, in terms of public health, is this something that is the responsibility of local and state governments? Or, like, who owns the responsibility around public health? Is that private sector, public sector, like if you can help give a little bit more insight into that ecosystem?

Alisa Howard
Sure. I would say all of us, literally what I do affects you, if I don't wear a mask, but right now, during COVID, I affect you I affect people that are around me, right. So it's really a people problem, a people issue or people responsibility. We have to take care of one another. It's a it's a population issue. Right. But from a logistic standpoint, yes, it does come from the federal government. And then it goes down to the states. So HRSA, Health Resources and Services Administration, HHS, which is Health Human Services, the CDC, which is the Center for Disease Control, all those big entities are federal governments. So actually, all of it comes from the White House, the White House, employs these people, the White House gives these people money, and says, now disseminate it out to your communities, and then it goes down to the States. And then from the States, it goes down to the counties, and then to the cities.

Mohammad Anwar
Got it. And so when you say it's everyone, can you help us understand how businesses or corporations are a part of public health and how were they fit into all of this.

Alisa Howard
So I like to say right now, during COVID, that businesses are involved in public health, because if businesses don't understand how COVID works, then they're not going to change their their laws or their rules, or whatever about coming to work, right? The fact that you all, I believe are working from home, that means that you understand public health, that means that you understand that you want to keep your employees safe from whatever this thing is, right. And so you implement mask wearing, you implement only going into the office at certain times, or only so many people can be in the office at a time. And then you probably talk about social distancing, or physical distancing. If you are in the office, all of that comes from the head of the business, but the business owner themselves need to understand public health. And they need to understand how serious and important it is for all of us to be safe, including taking care of your employees. So I always say that even companies that are not involved in public health need to know and understand about public health, because they take that information home, as well. And so if they don't, they don't cover basically their business, they may not cover their home with the information and the education

Mohammad Anwar
So, COVID crisis is a really unique situation that businesses are having to cope around, right, like this time around. Every business is having to come up with strategies and ideas how to navigate around this crisis. And as you're speaking about public health is the responsibility of the businesses as well as corporations that employ these people. What do you think the businesses can do more to help with some of the challenges that you mentioned early on, around you know, certain communities not having trust with, you know, messaging or what's going on with the vaccination campaign. Give us some insight into how businesses and corporations can support that in solving that challenge.

Alisa Howard
So I would say how businesses can support just kind of the efforts of public health is by being knowledgeable, right? I think, for me, as a business owner, I try to stay abreast of many different diverse things. For the fact that if I don't know, then I can't tell my contractors, what I know, right, I can't help my community, if I'm, if that's what I'm charged with is going to help my community, it's all about what I know. And if I don't know it, then my community doesn't know it. So it's the same thing from a business perspective, from a CEO, Executive Director, someone at the top, what they know is what the company will know. But it's also trusting your people, maybe they know a little bit more, let them come in and be the experts. So if one of you, you know, was not involved in public health, per se, but maybe you just like to read, and you've been reading about the Spanish Flu of 1918, to see how this whole COVID stuff is working, maybe you come into the office, and you allow Jeff to share that information. Because he's been, you know, he's been reading where he's been educated about it. But it's about bringing everyone together, and basically sharing being able to share information with one another. It's not one person knowing the answer to everything, but it is that one person that makes the decisions that will affect everything. So I really think it's important for business leaders, such as yourselves to stay abreast of public health issues, but just also your it needs to disseminate down to the rest of your staff so that they understand I, I say this all the time, each one teach one, right? If I know something, and I share with the next person, then they go share with the next person, we can reach a lot more people that way versus us just sharing it with ourselves or keeping it to ourselves.

Chris Pitre
I know that we did something like that, for COVID, I got, I had gotten tipped off about a possible shutdown or quarantine situation. And I texted Mohammad, I was like, hey, I don't know if it's really gonna happen. But I would be very, rather be prepared, you know, then be stuck out and nobody in the organization is ready for it. So to close the office down early that day and said, everybody, please go to the grocery store, and get enough to last you for as long as possible, whatever you can afford at the moment, right? And, you know, sure enough, the following week, the city did announce that shut down. And, you know, it's those types of things that I think you're saying businesses can can do, even if you're not sure, even if you're not 100% certain that this is all factual and going to happen, right? Because, again, predicting is not anybody's game, really. But being prepared can be everybody's game. And preparation is really where businesses can help further a public health situation or that prevention. And, you know, when you think about vaccinations, right, so we offer vaccines, you know, for the flu every year, at Softway, well before COVID. But, you know, bringing in a healthcare professional to administer those vaccines, you know, working with our insurance company to make sure that they were free, etc. But even those types of small things, as a business owner, you can really bring into you know, your organization and take off that pressure of someone trying to go after hours or on their own time to get immunized. Especially if you know that the flu season is going to be aggressive, or, you know, sort of transformational in the sense of any sort of permutations or what is it called when they when it when a virus mutates? Mutations, there you go. So permutations mutation.

Alisa Howard
You've made some really great points, Chris. Even that having health fairs, right, I work with a lot of companies here locally, who asked me to, hey, you have connection connects with the Health District you have connects with American Lung, you know, these, and I put health events together for large companies sometimes, or small companies nonprofits, because even if they're out of the public health sector, they still want to make sure that they're taking care of their employees. So you bring up a really good, great point about having health events at your actual organization that way, because they are at work, and they may not feel like I can go to a doctor's appointment in the middle of the day, it's there for you. So setting up help vendors and just disseminating the information. So what a health fair looks like outside but having it at your actual office. So yeah, business owners can definitely include that and implement that at their at their organizations as well, that lets the employee you know, I know when I was employee, I wanted to know that my boss cared about me, I want to know that my organization that I work for cared about me, that does show that you care, and it shows that, hey, we want you to be healthy. And so we've done this extra thing, even though that's not our field, we still want you to be healthy.

Mohammad Anwar
Yeah. I think at the end of the day even for businesses, you know, we we believe, you know, love as a business strategy, that people are at the center of everything right humanity is at the center and it can help businesses achieve their strategic objectives and goals. And when you think about it, like in this COVID crisis, or any other type of public health crisis that might come about, like making sure we're investing into taking care of the health of our people in the corporations and organizations, you are ultimately helping your business stay stable and be able to also achieve better business outcomes, right? Because the more healthier your staff are, the more engaged they are, and the more productive they are. And it ultimately ladders up to your business goals just by having that empathy and care and taking care of your employees and bringing that humanity to the workplace. Because that's really what it's teaching us, COVID crisis is teaching us so much more about humanity than we ever have, you know, at the corporate level. That it's, it's giving us even more of a reason to make sure we are having that empathy and care and taking care of our population at our organization, which is a part of the community at the end of the day.

Alisa Howard
Absolutely. So that's what community is, right? Everyone thinks that community is, you know, going to a baseball game, or I don't know, going down to your local Recreation Center. But literally, we our community, every organization can be their own community, that's what community is, and it just kind of goes out, right, it folds out to the rest of the population. And then we all become a community. So locally, a state is a community, right, and then counties are communities, and then cities are communities, but then it gets down to the smaller levels, like businesses, we have like when you work for a company that you love, you feel like you're a part of a community, you feel like those people are your family, you care about their health. So that's definitely the definition of community. It's about, it's about love. It's about having compassion for the next person, right? Not just thinking about yourself, because ultimately, it's going to affect you if they're sick, right? With this whole situation. If I get sick, and I go out to a meeting, and I know that I'm sick, I'm affecting not just that person, but their family and their families, family and whoever they go and see after that, that's how community and population health spreads is because it's one by one. And that's where I think a lot of people aren't understanding right now is, you know, we've had a lot of protests out here. That is a very interesting state. We've had a lot of protests.

Chris Pitre
I know what's going on. I know.

Alisa Howard
Yes. At our, not in Las Vegas, but in northern Nevada is a little different. Yeah, they showed up to the governor's office, or the governor's mansion with rifles, demanding that he opens the city. And they were just, you know, talking about the fact that they have rights, and we don't want to wear a mask. And from a public health standpoint, it was it's heartbreaking to see because it's like, no, you're literally taking everything that we worked towards all the work that we put out into the community about taking care of each other, you're literally dismantling that just with this protest. So it was really it was really interesting feat to see. But it was also eye opening. Because for public health professionals, we kind of learned from that right that people don't want their rights taken away. They don't necessarily may not care about other people. And so it actually makes our job a little bit harder. And now we're having those conversations on the back end. What are we going to do about this? How do we how do we enforce this and it has to come from someone higher than us. Right. It has to come from the Local Health District. It has to come from the governor, the mayor. I'm not sure if you all saw our mayor on Mayor Goodman on CNN.

Chris Pitre
I believe it's a woman is she?

Alisa Howard
Yes.

Chris Pitre
And she was talking to Anderson Cooper?

Alisa Howard
Yes.

Chris Pitre
I did. I I did. I did indeed see that interview. That was...

Alisa Howard
So, for the other two they have not seen it. She basically offered us up as a as a as a study, she offered Las Vegas up as a study and basically said that, you know, we could do a study here with people with COVID. But she wanted the casinos opened. And so Anderson Cooper mouth dropped literally on air. He said, let me make sure I'm understanding what you're saying. You want to offer Las Vegas as a control group. For this for COVID. Yes, and yes, it was just, I don't even know what to say even to this day. That was a couple months ago, but we're still like talking about that in public health, because that's a real. I don't that's basically saying, here's all my children, have them do do your way, you know, do your will with them, whatever you want to do with them. And it was like, hey, I don't want to be your children anymore. And well, oh, yes, we were really concerned about that. Just because no one should ever be offered up as a control group for a vaccine. It actually there are protocols and policies around all of that, which is why the vaccine is taking so long. Vaccines usually take typically two to three years and sometimes 10 years for it to be effective, and for it to come out correctly, because they have to do so many studies, and you can't have a small sample group. And so because Las Vegas is a bigger sample group, I think that's why she was offering that. But also there's, you know, there's ethics around vaccines and offering up a control group, someone has to actually sign and say that, yes, they want to be a part of a control group, because of the fact that we know our history, as far as Tuskegee experiment. And Henrietta Lacks and stealing of her DNA, things of that nature. Now, they've put protocols around control groups and samples, and people have to actually sign and say, yes, I want to do this, versus people just being offered up.

Chris Pitre
Yeah, no, I remember that interview very well. And she kept saying that, she'd be

Alisa Howard
People were texting me and calling me and like, what is wrong with your mayor, I got so many there were so many memes made,it was a mess.

Chris Pitre
When she said that she did not want to put any sort of guidance for businesses or casinos to open up. And that that would be their call, because you can't tell them how to run their businesses. I was like, she kept repeating that. And Anderson Cooper was just like, I'm sorry, what?

Alisa Howard
His mouth every time! Yeah, so that's we have a surge of cases here in Las Vegas. So if you all were thinking about taking a vacation do not come. We have a surge of cases here. I actually discouraged one of my friends in Texas, not to come, she was bringing her family. And she was like, hey, I know. Like, everyone's about to shut down. Probably again, so I want to come out there, I'm like, don't come just because the casinos did open up. And so they they did come out with their own protocols. And, yeah, they're not public health officials. And so they did had, they did have to get it approved by public health officials. But just the fact that you're in a space that is closed, and there's air conditioning, and there's fans and things of that nature. It's spreading like wildfire here. So I do not go to the strip, during this time, at all, just kind of staying out of closed spaces, eating outside, you know, if I do go out to eat, but mostly I'm just ordering and going to pick up my food and bringing it back, just taking the necessary precautions to stop spreading anything that I possibly can have, that I could have or that anyone else could have. So it's all about, I think people really need to understand right now it's about sitting down. It's about being still, and using this time to think about how you're going to help the world, right? That's how I look at it. How can I be effective? How can I use my gifts and my skill sets to kind of help in this situation right now? Even if public health is not your your thing, that's okay, we all need everybody to be collective in getting this under control.

Mohammad Anwar
Yep. So I wanted to ask maybe something a little different from the COVID crisis, but more to the community aspect that you brought up early on. So I've heard this, from my brother who works in a healthcare system, where he told me that a zip code from where a patient comes from could determine how long they live, or their life expectancy, rate and zip code you live live at could determine seven years, more potentially, in your lifespan? Can you help unpack that a little bit from a public health perspective? And how, why and what does that mean? And, and just educate us on that?

Alisa Howard
Sure. So public health is such a wide range of things, right? Um, what you're saying as far as the zip code, public, what we do is collect data as well. So some of us are working in epidemiology. Some of us are informatic people and they gather this data they gather, what they basically do is they if we're going out doing flu campaigns, and in a population in a zip code, and we notice that there's something happening, that population in that zip code versus another zip code that we went to, that wasn't happening, that's how that information kind of comes out. So basically, it's called social determinants of health, right? Basically, it's any barrier that stops you from being healthy. So it can be transportation, it could be the fact that you live in a food desert, which means that you don't have a a grocery store, a mile or two within your area in your proximity. That is called a food desert. We have lots of food deserts here in Las Vegas because we literally are a desert. But a lot of.. we really are. We have we have people that because of their zip code they live in as we know, populations are deemed impoverished, right? Some populations or some communities are deemed oh, that's the rich community or that's the poor community. Well, where did they get that from? That comes from public health because they've done Information Studies and information and gathered data about how much money people make in that zip code. How much, do they have problems with social determinants? Do you have problems with food? Do they have probably transportation? Do they have problems with what your highest level of education, so it also comes from the census, right? So even the census is part of a public health, bigger issue in its own thing, its own little way. But even we use the census information to be able to determine where we go to do our prevention work. So right now, the CDC has given us a flu campaign where were, they basically gave us a list of zip codes. So even the CDC knows in Las Vegas, these are the lists, lists of zip codes that we see have these potential problems, and we need you all to go out and do prevention and education and bring awareness. So that's kind of how all of that works. And it's one of those things like I don't know, if you all have heard of redlining, for housing, buying a house, that is the same exact thing, where it's houses and sections of cities were deemed back in the day, you know, they weren't allowed, minorities were not allowed to buy in those areas, because those were considered the good side of town or the rich areas. And so redlining is illegal, but it still happens behind the scenes, just like everything else. And so the reason why our minority communities are have a lot of social determinants, because of lack of education, right? lack of awareness, but also the trust issue, because they've been, they've been, they've had this history of people stealing from them stealing their DNA, experimenting on them, not allowing them to buy houses, all of those things go back into public health. And so even though we see them as separate issues, it's are really a big collective issue.

Mohammad Anwar
Interesting. Yeah.

Jeff Ma
So I know, we already, you know, putting COVID aside, I wanted to dive like into our original question of like, major problems. I understand that, you know, there's a lot of problems with public health. Could you maybe elaborate on what you started there or even start another topic around some more of these problems that we can unpack?

Alisa Howard
Yeah. So I think that equity and equality are big problems in public health. I think that when we don't, as people, we don't consider someone else equal to us, we treat them less than us. And that come and if we have that ideology, right, we take that to work with us. And so sometimes it's, you know, public health officials that have the money that have these ideologies, and that disseminates down or doesn't disseminate down because of the fact that they believe that certain communities don't deserve certain certain amenities such as health. And so I really believe that if we, as a community, as a people as a, as a human race, if we really just tap into the fact that, you know, you look different than me, I value you, I value your culture, I don't have to like some of the things that you do or believe in, but I do think that your life is important. I think that we're bringing humanists back, just to public health in general, but also to what's happening right now just taking care of ourselves and being able to take care of the next person, because I see that person as a human, not as a black person or white person, but I see you as a human being. And so equity is the fact where we basically we distribute the information and education to everyone equally. And then, of course, you all know what equality is. Those two, we say a lot in public health, because of the fact they literally go together in healthcare, they go together, especially because if a doctor doesn't believe, or if a doctor believes what they've heard from their previous colleagues are what they've read about a black person, that we're strong, they're black woman, we're so strong, we don't need medicine to have a baby. You know, they're so strong. No, that's not true. We're still human, we still if you pinch us, we're still going to, that still hurts, we still bleed. But because of the myths and the stigma that's around certain communities, literally doctors go to school for all of these years. They're super smart people. But then they still have these little these little things that they've been told from their previous colleagues or just systematically within their systems that they're learning that about certain communities, certain communities don't believe in, in you know, vaccination, so they don't go and provide vaccinations to that particular zip code. It's all of that. So it comes back to meet for me, equity and equality. If we get back to those two things and what those really mean, then we can really fix public health and we can really fix health care as well. Everyone should be able to experience good health or at least have access to good health.

Chris Pitre
That makes sense. And I know that follows a lot of the conversations around D&I, even in the workplace around, like, you know, equity and making sure that understanding that everybody's coming from a different place and a different point of view, different experience a different, you know, different life experience. And so having the ability to meet them where they are, and still get them up to where they need to be in everybody's getting that same level, that's really critical. And I can imagine in public health, that that is still, you know, a challenge, because, you know, when you talk about the flu, certain zip codes might know exactly what that is, what that means and why they should get vaccinated already. So the amount of attention and effort you get to that community might be a little less than a community where they may not know a lot about the flu, or maybe they have the language barrier where they have to translate it into Spanish, or another language before they can build that understanding up to know that now they need to go and get the flu vaccine, right. So I can see that that that there's a lot of parallels and how you, you know, can disseminate information and build trust in communities where, you know, equity and equality don't sort of exist in an unnatural state.

Chris Pitre
Yeah. So think about even when you are working for Softway, you all have access to health care, you all have health care, right? But the 80%, I would say, well, here in Nevada, a large population of people do not have health care, they don't have a full time job, that are offering them healthcare, or sometimes they don't opt for the healthcare because they actually need that extra money in their paycheck. So literally getting on maybe government programs, or maybe not even knowing about government programs, right? So it's that when I talk about education and awareness, it's even those little minute things that we don't think of, because we think, you know, we go to work every day, we have healthcare, we get our regular flu shots, we have our annuals, and those are just things, they're just a part of our normal life. But that's not everyone's life. If you are in a certain population, a certain zip code, work a certain type of job, where they don't offer that you are literally the minority, you are the person or the group of people who is not getting access to health care, right access to the information, no one's coming to your house, and showing up and saying, hey, here's, you know, information about Medicaid, if you don't have health care, they may have heard the word Medicaid, but they don't know what Medicaid is, they don't know that they can get on the health care exchange during the Affordable Care Act. What's happening right now in November 1, we started where people can sign up for the free for free health care if they don't have health care if you've lost your job. So a lot of people don't know that right now. So there's teams going out doing that type of work. And they're doing that for the communities that that it doesn't disseminate down to, for some reason, there's some you know, there's something that stops it from getting to certain populations, or the fact that they may just not understand and so they just kind of, you know, okay, whatever, but don't understand later on how important your health is. And so we see a lot of that as well. And I'm sure your brother does too, Mohammad, where we try to do the public health stuff. But it now crosses over into health care, because now this person did not do prevention, we could not get the information to them, or they didn't want to listen to us. And now it's crossed over to now they're in the hospital, they're in their emergency room. They're now in the health care system, and having chronic diseases and chronic problems because they didn't take care of it prior. So there's just a lot of that kind of entangles public health and health care intertwines into that.

Mohammad Anwar
I also hear just from hearing you speak about how companies and business owners have a lot to do, they're like even providing health care options, right? Because I know, as a business owner, health care comes at a cost to the business to provide for their employees as a benefit. But it's not just about making it available. It's about making it feasible for employees to be able to sign up for healthcare, you know, having your contribution or for the family, the coverage for you know, the spouse and kids, all of that. I think as a corporation, we have a responsibility to the community to think about how are we offering up these benefits for employees?

Alisa Howard
Absolutely.

Chris Pitre
Also how they're communicated. I think one of the biggest learnings that we had a Softway is that whenever you have you know, policies or whatever that are going to affect health. When you approach our employees with language that they don't understand, it confuses they don't know, if they're signing up for the right plan. They don't know if they need to understand all these nuances, etc. And so, you know, as a business owner, if you're listening, just thinking about how you present health care plans to your employees can also make the world of difference on how they approach their own health. And that is sometimes a big opportunity, but also one of the biggest misses is that everything is said asynchronously, and then it's all roped in language that your insurance company has written and they're not thinking about your population, they're not thinking about your community, they're not thinking about the people that are going to be absorbing it. And there's a lot of questions. But also, there's a lack of wanting to ask those questions because nobody wants to look dumb. Nobody wants to look like you know that the only ones who don't get all of this, you know, highfalutin language that is written by some insurance company from some corporate office, where they're in that industry instead of that table, and know everything about that language. And what it means represents and also what it does not mean, and what it does not represent. And so, we've had to do, like, we have to literally bootcamp any insurance person that wants to come and talk to our team, like, okay, what are you gonna say? No, you can't say that. No, that's not gonna work. Like you're gonna get blank stares. And you're going to miss the opportunity to really help people understand why this is a benefit.

Chris Pitre
I think how unique that is that you all do that. Yeah, a lot of companies don't do that, or take the time to even care. They just, oh, okay, we'll just have three insurance companies come in and just say whatever they want to say. But because you all you all offer love as a business strategy, you're thinking about people in a loving way, where you want to know what is going to be said to them before, it's actually said, because you don't want any harm to be done to your to your community, your business.

Chris Pitre
That's a good thing. People thought I was crazy. I was like, you can't do that. You can't come and say that. But no, it does take that type of, it's not control, but it's like, it's a care that I have for the you know, these folks who I know are, they're newer in their career, they're younger, in their career, they're inexperienced around a lot of things and that language that you're using, although I might understand it, you know, to some degree, I don't think that's fair to just have you go and talk to people any kind of way, and then expect them to,

Mohammad Anwar
You know, to be honest, I won't lie, I still don't understand some of our insurance.. is it coinsurance, deductible, this is this out of pocket out of network in network, I'm like, Oh, my gosh, this is so complicated. I want to have a healthcare plan that I could go see a doctor, not have to spend so much money.

Alisa Howard
So, Mohammad, think about that. You are college educated, right? I remember you say saying that in anothe call that you were ollege educated, and you are even saying that you don't understand it. So imagine a person that did not graduate high school, imagine a person that may be illiterate imagine a person that just that just not is not a part of their everyday conversations with their friends, healthcare. Imagine that. So when they hear in and out of network and all of those things, if I don't understand something, you just kind of like, oh, whatever, I don't understand it. Right. So just imagine that. So from our standpoint, we see things in one way. And we may not even understand the things that are being said to us. But then those communities that just don't have the the the college background or high school background, or just the the wherewithal to even care about something like that, because in their mind, I'm healthy right now, I don't need that. Or Okay, just pick a plan. And then they pick a plan. Your copay is $200. And they don't understand that now they canceled their whole plan. Now they just don't have health care, right. So there's just there's just so much to that. But that's what public health does is we go out and we try to educate them on their health care. So there's the people call a health care navigators. And they came out with the Affordable Care Act, where they basically are disseminated into the community. And they go out and teach the insurance part of health care. And so public health, we teach about chronic diseases, things of that prevention wise, but they go out and teach the healthcare part of it. As far as insurance is concerned, even myself, insurance is a totally different. It's a totally different beast, you have to like really sit there and kind of dissect everything, and they don't make it readable. They don't make it plain language, as I like to call it for for normal everyday people. And whether that's a, I don't know, a strategic thing that they're doing on purpose, or whether that is just something that someone's never, you know, told them that, hey, no one understands what the hell you're talking about. I'm not sure but it's even confusing for me. And I'm grateful that I know a little bit about it, because I have to teach it in my class, I teach the Affordable Care Act information insurance and Medicaid and all that, but that doesn't mean that I understand like the bylaws and all of those things. So we have to look at people in all areas and all you know areas of life and where they may be at they may be older, you know, they may be younger, there's a there's obviously a gap there. If I'm young, 18 years old, just getting my first job. I don't know anything about healthcare, because I've been on my mom's plan, or my my parents plan this whole time. Or if I'm older, I just want you to take care of me I don't I don't have that much money. Maybe I'm living off of social social security. You know, maybe I'm getting a $720 a month. I don't have time to or I don't have the money to pay $150 so just give me the plan. That I can afford, but then those plans aren't taking care of them the way they need to. Now they can't go, you know, maybe they don't have mental health or behavioral health, a part of that plan, maybe they can only go to their doctor one one or two times a month, because of the copay. You know, it's just a lot of factors that kind of go into all of this. But I think as business owners, as community leaders, when we think about diversity, when we think about inclusion, right, inclusion is bringing people all together, including them in the the ideas and the conversations that we're having. I think that's really important. And it all kind of goes back to equity, for me and equality. So yeah, I think this is all just like a wrap around. I don't I don't think that people understand that. It disseminates down, you know, if the government is not giving us what we need, the tools that we need, in the community has to do it.

Mohammad Anwar
Yeah. And the biggest takeaway I'm taking from this is, as a business owner, for myself, personally, I have a responsibility to the community. And, you know, like you mentioned, people working at a company, they are also considered a community. So my biggest takeaway is, it's, it's upon us as leaders in the business world to, you know, we have a part to play in public health. And if we can just, you know, stick to the foundation of love as a business strategy with humanity at the center of it, then this is a big part of it as well is being able to supply the necessary education, opportunities, facilities to help the community. From a health perspective, for sure.

Jeff Ma
It's a it's a huge takeaway for me as well, Moh, like, the word community, it's like, it fits right in here, but we don't use it enough, right. Like we don't I don't feel like we say community in this context enough when we talk about love, because there's this inherent love built into the word. I feel like when you say community, there's this you know, it's not like this deep deep you know, passionate love but there's like this love when you're in a community, there's a this is a static love that flows kind of between all the members of that community I think I love that's really powerful to me, you guys are talking about health plans and things like that. And is just last week, I was sitting in socially distanced away from my sister in law, who was literally like, you could see like visible stress stressing over selecting her her companies, you know, health plans, and it was like, it was a painful kind of like really stressful process that she needed support in and I like as a family member, I'm like, I like love would be sitting down and explaining and helping and, you know, as much as well as I could explain, cuz I'm not an expert, either. No one clearly we've established that nobody here is and but but it's like, Why? Why can't we be doing stuff like that for our community? Like, it's not it's not it doesn't have to be family that we support in this way? Why can't we be have building community and supporting community in those ways within our business, but then outside our business and even beyond? That, I think that's just as powerful takeaway for me from today.

Alisa Howard
Community is when I just like you said, Jeff, when I see community or when I think of community, I'm a very visual person. So I picture a heart, you know, I picture Christmas I picture people, you know, out shopping, but helping each other the same time someone drops a, you know, drops their bag, someone picking it up from them, like literally we, I think when we hear the word community, we think it's so large, but literally community is what it is for you at that moment, right? It's your family, it's your work, friends, it's going to work, you're in that community. For that moment, I do an exercise with my students where when we were in the class, I would have them come up and write what communities they were part of. And the first thing they would think of were race, ethnicity, cultural type of things, but they didn't think of your sorority, they didn't think of their fraternities, they didn't think of the clubs that they're in, they didn't think of their jobs they didn't think of, and that's why I break down community in that way, is to show them that they're a part of so many different communities, and they should tap into that. So when we say that you're a community health worker, that means you go out, and you're always helping or educating people in whatever capacity you can within those communities.

Mohammad Anwar
Awesome.

Jeff Ma
That's powerful. And I think I hope the listeners are able to get a new perspective, like I did, around what community really means and how that might apply to not just your work, but also considering public health and considering the greater world around us, because I think it's a really powerful way to look at the world and to change our behaviors around that as well. And our considerations,

Alisa Howard
Love needs to be a public health strategy.

Jeff Ma
Yes. I love that. She's an expert. Alisa, I want to thank you for your time today, it was a really amazing conversation. I there's so much more I want to dig into this and I want to appreciate you for your time, Chris and Mohammad, also, thank you all for having this conversation today.

Alisa Howard
Thank you all for having me. I really appreciate it.

Chris Pitre
Thank you for giving your time.

Jeff Ma
Yeah, here at Love as a Business Strategy, we're posting new episodes every Tuesday. And if there's a topic that you'd like to cover or something you're interested in, please let us know at softway.com/LAABS and if you like what you heard today, please do consider a five star review or subscription on Apple or Spotify. It would mean a lot. And with that, thank you all and we'll see you next week.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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