For one public health specialist, educating the community about the dangers of smoking is priority No. 1

Diana J. Smith

Her dream career was to become a nurse practitioner, but when Pierra Moise took an introductory public health course during her undergraduate work, she found a new love: public health.

“Public health is about prevention, practicing self-care, mental health and improving quality of life,” she says. “I am very passionate about networking with people in finding free resources to help those in need.”

Her passion for helping people in this way has been recognized by civic organizations and local elected officials, including the Poway Chamber of Commerce, which recently recognized her for her service in the community through the various lung health initiatives she pilots as health promotions specialist for the American Lung Association.

Moise, 31, lives in the Del Cerro neighborhood of San Diego and took some time to talk about her work with the American Lung Association, educating the public about vaping and smoke-free outdoor dining, mentoring high school students, and her love for fashion and fitness.

Q: You coordinate virtual community forums on vaping and smoke-free outdoor dining. What kinds of information, specifically, do you provide to the public about these issues?

A: As an educator, I educate the Poway community about the American Lung Association’s “State of Tobacco Control 2021” report. Poway currently has an overall grade of “F.” The tobacco control grade is broken up into four components, including smoke-free outdoor air, smoke-free housing, reducing sales of tobacco products, and emerging issues bonus points. There are more than 120 municipalities in California that restrict smoking in all outdoor dining areas, including 11 in San Diego County. Unfortunately, Poway is one of those cities still without a smoke-free outdoor dining policy.

We also have pulmonologists from our Mission Committee Board and a young vaping prevention advocate as special guest speakers for the virtual community forums. Pulmonologists present information to the Poway community about e-cigarettes/vaping devices, e-liquids, disguised vaping devices that young teens use in schools, the variety of fruity e-liquid flavors used in vaping devices, secondhand/thirdhand smoke exposure, and smoke-free outdoor dining in restaurants and bars.

Q: What are your goals for these virtual, community forums? What do you ultimately hope the result of each forum will be?

A: My goal for the virtual community forums is to bring awareness to the community that most cities in San Diego County have a smoke-free outdoor dining policy, but the city of Poway does not. I listened to the community’s concerns about smoke-free outdoor dining, vaping, and secondhand smoke, and discuss solutions to correct these problems.

Another goal is to further understanding among parents/guardians about the prevalence of vaping in middle and high schools, and discuss solutions to make students aware of how detrimental vaping and hookah is for their health.

I ultimately hope that Poway residents spread the word and take action. Residents, business owners, and others can attend city council meetings and voice their opinions, or write letters of support voicing their opinions about this issue and sending those letters to the city’s elected officials. I hope all Poway residents secure the right to breathe clean air to protect their lungs.

What I love about Del Cerro …

I love that is right next to San Diego State University, where I received my master’s degree in public health. Forever an Aztec. Go Aztecs!

Q: You’re also involved in leading eight high school students in the organization’s public health and policy work experience project. What can you tell us about this particular project, and what it involves?

A: The purpose of our volunteer project is to engage local youth from Poway Unified School District in protecting their city from the effects of tobacco use. Students will support the association in our efforts to reduce smoking and vaping through education and working toward a smoke-free outdoor dining policy for restaurant patios in Poway. This volunteer project is valuable for students interested in college majors or careers in public health, medicine, nonprofit work, education and government, and public policy. Seven juniors and one senior high school student from Del Norte High School were interested in our volunteer project, and all students were selected. Students performed two to five hours of volunteer service, and the project is eight weeks.

Students were assigned activities throughout the project, with the option to choose to be involved in all of the assigned activities. They attended an orientation led by myself and a colleague, and also participated in an additional letter of support training that I facilitated with another colleague.

After students wrote a draft of their letters supporting our work to raise awareness around vaping and smoke-free outdoor dining, they received feedback and learned where to submit their letters. On June 15 (California’s re-opening day), students read their letters to their elected officials during the public comment portion of Poway’s city council meeting. Other students from Poway High School also read their own letters at the July 20 city council meeting. They’ve said that the work they learned to do has made an impact on society and that it gave them an experience they wouldn’t have had in school, and that they’ve felt empowered as Californians by participating in this volunteer work.

Toward the end of this project, we held a small celebration for them where they received certificates of appreciation and recognition from the Lung Association and from state Sen. Brian Jones’ office in El Cajon.

Q: Are there things that you’ve been learning from the students in the project?

A: I’ve learned a lot from the students. The students’ writing skills were outstanding, and they shared some personal life experiences and stories about vaping in their schools.

Q: You’ve been recognized for your work with certificates and awards from elected government representatives and from community and advocacy organizations. What does it mean to you to be recognized for your work in these ways?

A: It means that my hard work has paid off, it shows my passion, dedication, leadership and love for the community. It shows how much of an impact I made in the Poway community in such a short amount of time. I love what I do and that is inspiring the community, listening to their needs, and creating impactful change to have a healthier community. The award and certificates are just a reminder that I have done my job well and will continue to keep doing it.

Q: What’s been challenging about your work?

A: The most challenging part about my work is only educating the community and not advocating. It has been a struggle to get community members to participate at city council meetings and to provide public comment or write letters of support. It has also been challenging to educate restaurant owners/managers about the dangers of secondhand smoke, vaping, and the benefits of smoke-free outdoor dining.

Q: What’s been rewarding about this work?

A: The most rewarding part about my work is leading students and inspiring them to be leaders in the community.

Q: What has this work taught you about yourself?

A: A lot of the work was very new for me. Public speaking and working in politics are something I was always afraid of doing, but I learned how to become more engaged and voice my opinions with elected officials. This work has made me stronger as an individual. It has taught me leadership skills, how to be a better public speaker, opened my mind, and taught me a lot about policy.

Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

A: One of my mentors, Sotera Anderson, told me to be myself and not let anyone bring me down or steal my joy.

Q: What is one thing people would be surprised to find out about you?

A: That I run an online clothing boutique with my sisters, called Glammiere Collectionz.

Q: Please describe your ideal San Diego weekend.

A: My ideal San Diego weekend is to participate in any fitness-related classes. I love to dance and work on my fitness. After my workout, I love to get all my colleagues, friends, and family together and go have lunch or dinner somewhere in beautiful San Diego.

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