What They’re Watching: Tellie Matagi, Hawaii State Department of Health


Eli Kirshbaum


Tellie Matagi led the Pacific Islander Task Force within the Hawaii State Department of Health during the COVID-19 pandemic, which conducted contact tracing among the state’s Pacific Islander population. Like many stakeholders, Matagi is focused on health equity—but for her, equitable health outcomes can’t be reached until the healthcare workforce is representative of the ethnic diversity of the population it serves. We sat down with her during January’s Hawaii State of Reform conference to hear about her main priorities in state health policy.

“If you’re not hiring community members from underserved and marginalized communities, then what equity are you really providing?”

This cultural competency among the workforce was key when the state was conducting contact tracing among different Hawaii communities, she said.