Grantee Spotlight: Upstream Public Health

Pear in Mind: A Blog in the Public Interest

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CSPI “sat down” (virtually) with Haoua Dogo, Organizing Director at Upstream Public Health, to learn more about the organization's work making Oregon a better place to live, work, study, and play. This blog is the fifth in a series of posts highlighting our campaign partner organizations. 

Can you tell us a little bit about the communities you serve?

Upstream Public Health serves Multnomah County, which currently has a population of 815,428 people. The majority of the people who live in Multnomah county are White; however, those most affected by chronic diet related conditions are Black, Indigenous, and Latinx.

Can you describe your campaign and the intended impact? How does your project relate to your mission and support the community you serve?

Our Healthy Kids Default Policy campaign makes healthy options the default option in restaurant kids’ meals. It supports the communities we serve by changing the norms of eating out by making healthier options more accessible and readily available. While many lower-income working families don’t have access to or time for healthier options, our campaign will hold restaurants more accountable for how they market meals, so that the healthier option is easier to choose for families. For those who prefer the current default option, it will be effortless for them to change their meals. We aren’t punishing people for choosing the less nutritious option, and we aren’t increasing the price for those who choose the more nutritious one. Our goal is to make our community more conscious about what we are putting into their children’s bodies without stripping them of the right to eat what they want.

What does your average day look like?

My day starts at 5AM, when the sky is still navy blue and everything and everyone is still quiet. I grab my headphones and go on my morning walk to refresh my mind and get my energy for the day. After my walk, I typically brainstorm ideas for my projects. By 6 AM I have my laptop open and I am ready to start the work day. I first check my emails and send out any urgent emails that need a response. These emails often have events or coalition meetings that the public or organizations who want to be a part of the mission can attend.

I am currently a part of four coalition groups; REACH/ACHIEVE, Healthy Active Oregon, Healthy Kids Learn Better, Healthy Birth Initiatives, and the Early Childhood Coalition. I organize my day around different coalition meetings and events, in hopes to find individuals and organizations who have the same mission and interests as well as looking for opportunities to promote and bring awareness to the Healthy Kids Defaults Policy and the positive impacts it will have on our communities. We met many of the organizations that we’re partnered with at other coalition meetings or conferences.

Once I am done reaching out to organizations, I usually end up doing research on current nutrition policies both locally and nationally. Then, I’ll work on updating my contact list of stakeholders and potential partners. Even if they may not be interested in directly being a part of building the policy, many organizations support the work that we are doing and would like to be kept in the loop.  Next, my director and I plan out who I need to talk to to get information to the public and what steps we need to take to build meaningful relationships with local organizations and legislators. We also utilize our current partnerships and connections to build new relationships and ask for feedback on the work we are doing. Once I am done with meetings and research, I  begin brainstorming. Now, this is my favorite part because I enjoy envisioning the policy and seeing how it can change our community as well as coming up with ideas that can improve our processes and the way in which we achieve community buy-in.

What motivates you personally to do this work?

I am pre-diabetic and diabetes runs in my family. I think it is important to learn how to balance meals at an early age to prevent hormone imbalances and other health related issues that can severely impact your quality of life. In the world we live in today, we are all busy, and ordering out can be the easier option for some. I find myself going out to eat 7 days a week for at least one of my meals, so I think it’s important that we can easily access healthier options without changing where we eat. I think a lot of our health problems are related to what we ingest and what we put into our bodies. If we can start building health consciousness at an early age, our communities will have a better overall quality of life.

How would you describe your team?

I have the best team of individuals and organizations who are driven and dedicated to improving the health and life of the entire community. These people work day in and day out to make sure that our communities are thriving and overcoming everyday health challenges. Many of the people we work with are not directly tied into nutrition and are overloaded with the COVID-19 crisis, yet they still reserve space to support this campaign and the health of our community.

What’s the best way for people to get involved in your campaign or work?

The best way to get involved in our work is to attend our coalition meetings at 12PM on the last Wednesday of each month-- email me at haoua.dogo@upstreampublichealth.org for the details. Otherwise, follow us on Instagram at @healthykidsmealspdx or visit https://www.healthyactiveoregon.org/about-1

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