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Public Health Culture

Join Leonore Okwara, MPH as she discusses public health research, initiatives, and how to engage the community in it all.

Jul 14, 2020

Sandra Melstad, MPH is the founder and CEO of SLM Consulting, LLC. Sandra has worked in public health for over a decade focused on health promotion and chronic disease prevention and control initiatives; working to improve the health of rural and urban communities where people live, work, learn and play. Sandra is experienced with evidence-based public health practice, policy, system, and environment change, community health needs assessment and improvement, cancer prevention, epidemiology, and big data. She established SLM Consulting, LLC in 2012, which is focused on providing data driven public health solutions to create healthy communities and improve population health guided by prevention, research, and evidence-based public health.  She calls South Dakota home and is currently working on her PhD at the University of South Dakota.


In This Episode We Cover:

  • How conducting needs assessments are crucial to understanding the barriers and facilitators to improving health equity in rural communities.
  • The barriers to health equity: practitioner skill level, policies, cultural values, and implicit biases.
  • The importance of collaborating with not only traditional public health professionals but also non-traditional professionals, which is especially important in rural areas.
  • How helping people understand what health equity is is the foundation of the work.
  • Why working with clients on “out of the box” thinking is her priority.
  • The importance of collaboration and community engagement in rural states such as South Dakota.
  • What a needs assessment is and how we often don’t know what we don’t know.
  • How she personally and professionally is working towards achieving health equity.
  • Where the health equity research gaps are and what we can focus on to close those gaps.
  • What steps you can take to start doing health equity work.


Stand-Out Quotes:

  • "Rural communities are disproportionately impacted by chronic diseases and health outcomes.”
  • “How do we get people to understand what health equity is?”
  • “What are the root outcomes affecting (health) outcomes?”
  • “A needs assessment is a comprehensive and collaborative process where diverse partners and the community are engaged to help collect data.”
  • “If we can bring people together we can share resources and have a much better chance of making an impact.”

Action Steps:

  • Engage with your neighbors,  just be open and welcoming to all different mindsets so you can impact health outcomes.
  • Think broadly and be intentional about health equity and community engagement.


Reach Out:

  • Follow her on social media: Instagram: @slmconsultingllc / Linked In: @slmconsulting / Facebook: @slmconsultingsolutions

Email her: