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New Volunteer Health Board to Help Foreign-Born North Dakotans

North Dakota's foreign-born population is only 3.9%, but it has seen large growth over the past decade. (Adobe Stock)
North Dakota's foreign-born population is only 3.9%, but it has seen large growth over the past decade. (Adobe Stock)
June 25, 2020

BISMARCK, N. D. -- As North Dakota's population becomes more diverse, state health officials are seeking guidance on how to better serve people arriving from other countries.

A new panel aims to help with any gaps. This week, the New American/Foreign Born/Immigrant Advisory Board held its first meeting.

The board consists of 40 volunteers with diverse backgrounds who will offer input to the North Dakota Department of Health, and help with access issues.

For example, according to North Dakota Health Equity Director Krissie Guerard, it could involve outreach to the immigrant community about immunization rates. The group or person raising the concern can go to the board for assistance.

"Whether it's messaging, making contacts, making sure that we are doing things in a culturally appropriate way for that certain group," said Guerard.

From 2010 to 2016, North Dakota's foreign-born population grew by 48%. Experts caution that the spike appears large because of the state's small immigrant population before that time period, but supporters of the initiative say it's still vital to do more outreach in these communities.

Guerard said because of the pandemic, the state actually had to speed up implementation of the advisory board to ensure these communities were being served.

As she put it, "Because of all the needs that there were in those communities, and some of the barriers in reaching those communities, it just made us go a little faster in the establishment of this board."

She added the health department is in the process of launching a similar effort for the state's Native American population.

Mike Moen, Public News Service - ND