GRAND FORKS — After holding the position for about a month, Grand Forks Director of Public Health Tess Moeller looks forward to a number of ongoing efforts in the department.

Among them is strategic planning following the 2022 Community Health Assessment, the latest in a series of assessments conducted every three years since 2013. A community health improvement project – called CHIP – is being finalized and the main themes of the action plan are access to care, obesity, substance use disorders, mental health, workforce development and to child care.

For Moeller, creating action items is important as she continues to learn more about the department.

“I love strategic planning and making it happen. You can talk about strategy all day, but it’s really the action items related to that strategy,” Moeller said. “I think a lot of my phase right now is (what) I’ll call discovery. I often ask “why”. … It just helps me to have a basic knowledge of the work in progress”

Moeller, a native of Moorhead, Minnesota, worked for Avera Health, a regional health system based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, before becoming director of Grand Forks Public Health. Moeller, who has a background in nursing, has worked in South Dakota for the past 15 years.

Moeller has taken some time to regroup and focus on his personal life after the pandemic and is now looking forward to being closer to his family in this role.

“(I) just look for that next step in (my) career to put down roots instead of the hustle and bustle of moving every two years,” she said.

Former GFPH director Debbie Swanson retired at the end of January.

Other ongoing work within the department involves evaluating the services provided by the GFPH, securing funding for the various programs offered, and following up on public health-related bills that have made their way to the Legislative Assembly. Another area of ​​focus will be strengthening departmental data reporting to show how GFPH uses money received from grants and community partners.

Moeller said another goal is to maintain and strengthen the community partnerships already in place through the department’s and Swanson’s previous efforts.

“My intention is to maintain these current community relationships that Debbie has worked very hard to establish and maintain,” she said. “I’m just trying to level them out and refocus on community priorities.”

To maintain these partnerships, Moeller said it’s important to ensure that community partners have a seat at the proverbial table and that all populations are reached.

Making sure everyone is heard has been a passion for Moeller. In her previous work, Moeller has been mentored by two orders of Catholic sisters, the Benedictines and the Presentation Sisters, which are sponsored by Avera Health and advocate for social justice issues.

“I was lucky enough to be mentored by some of them and formed close relationships with them,” she said. “I learned more about the social justice issues they are passionate about and it kind of lit a fire in me that I was able to have a greater impact in a public health setting versus a healthcare system. traditional health. …”

Coming out of the pandemic, Moeller said the GFPH needed to focus on priorities that needed to be put on the back burner. It’s important to renew the focus with the department team and ensure the department is in tune with the community, she said.

In addition to ongoing efforts in the department, Moeller looks forward to continuing to forge relationships with the city and county, as well as the idea of ​​one day being able to mentor others.

“I’m definitely open to mentoring. I have the philosophy of more co-mentoring, so they teach me as much as I would teach them,” she said. “It’s something that really excites me. I had great mentors along the way. And obviously you can’t repay that, but you can repay it and that’s my way of doing it. So I think mentoring is huge.

Moeller said she enjoys the variety the job brings.

“I love that no day is the same,” she said. “I like the fact that we can take care of our clients at the social detox center, as well as mosquito control and planning for the next season. »

Meghan Arbegast grew up in Security-Widefield, Colorado. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from North Dakota State University in Fargo in 2021.

Arbegast wrote for The Spectrum, NDSU’s student newspaper, for three years and served as news editor for two years. She was an intern in university relations during her last two semesters of college studies.

Arbegast covers news pertaining to the city of Grand Forks/East Grand Forks, including coverage from City Hall.

Readers can reach Arbegast at 701-780-1267 or [email protected].

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