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What Does Community Health Improvement Look Like in the Red River Valley?

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What Does Community Health Improvement Look Like in the Red River Valley?

What does community health improvement look like? This is a question we’ve asked ourselves as we look to continually extend our mission of improving health, enriching life, beyond the walls of the health system and into the communities we serve. The answer, we’ve found, is not simple.

Health can have many meanings. From mental health, to prevention, to education and training, to physical health and activity. There are many ways to make our community healthier, and as we look to do so we know it’s imperative to work with our community partners on these efforts.

The wide range of nonprofit businesses and community-led initiatives to improve the health and well-being of our community is astounding. Many groups and individuals in our region are focused on the various health issues that affect our residents. We spoke to a few of our community partners, all with varying missions, to get a better feel for what they aim to do this year, and how community members can support these initiatives. Here’s what we learned.

New & Improved

“The UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences is in the midst of fully implementing its Healthcare Workforce Initiative (HWI) to: 1) reduce disease burden; 2) retain more health career graduates for practice in North Dakota; 3) expand the cadre of healthcare students enrolled at the School; and 4) improve the efficiency of healthcare delivery,” explains Joshua Wynne, MD, MBA, MPH, UND vice president for health affairs and dean of the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences. “To house the additional programs, students and trainees, a state-of-the-art, 325,000-square-foot building is nearing completion on the northeast corner of the UND campus.”

The new UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences building will open this summer, in time to welcome the medical school class of 2020.

Healing the Mind

“One of the 2016 goals for Northwestern Mental Health Center is a focus on caring for those dealing with the impacts of trauma, such as: adverse childhood effects, abuse, neglect, war, accidents, environmental catastrophe and beyond,” explains Shauna Reitmeier, chief executive officer of Northwestern Mental Health Center in Crookston.

“As more research uncovers the impacts of trauma, we are training many of our staff in trauma-specific interventions to meet the growing need for this care. Our hope is to become a Trauma Center of Excellence in the region.”

Learn more about Northwestern Mental Health Center

Aiming to Build

“We are excited to be breaking ground in April on a new shelter to continue providing safety for families fleeing violence,” shares Kristi Hall-Jiran, executive director of the Community Violence Intervention Center. “The Building Hope Campaign has been well supported thanks to partners like Altru and our caring community. With only a short way to go before the campaign goal is met, we invite you to visit our website at to learn how you can be involved in providing this important lifeline to safety.”

Sunshine Memorial Foundation has plans to build, too. They aim to develop a hospitality home for patients and their families seeking medical care in the Grand Forks community who need a place to stay. Recently the Foundation has seen a lot of support in surrounding communities. They have received letters of support from area hospitals and clinics who believe in this project, along with several corporate regional gifts. Southern Nelson County was the first to start a community team, setting a goal to name a room after their county. To date, they have already raised over $35,000. “The land for the home has been secured,” shares Jena Pierce, foundation relations and development coordinator for Sunshine Memorial Foundation. “We are thrilled with the momentum this project has gained over the past year and are working diligently to make this project a reality in the next 1-2 years.”

Donate or learn more about Sunshine Memorial Foundation FartherKids Race

“The Wild Hog Half Marathon will enter its fifth year in 2016. We are celebrating by adding a full marathon to the existing race schedule,” shares Stacy Kusler, Wild Hog Half Marathon committee member. “We have experienced tremendous community, state and even national participation in our past four years–enough support that we were able to donate $10,000 each to the Grand Forks Public School Foundation for Education, the YMCA Youth Scholarship Fund and the Grand Forks Park District Foundation Youth Scholarship. We are so happy to be able to give back to a community that has given so much to this event.”

The 2016 Wild Hog race events will take place on September 23 and 24. Support this celebration of physical fitness by participating, cheering or volunteering. Learn more at

Teaming Up

The Coalition for a Healthy Greater Grand Forks and Healthy Choices Greater Grand Forks are teaming up to combat obesity in 2016. “The 2013 Community Health Assessment found that obesity in adults and children is the greatest issue our community faces,” explains Healthy Choices Greater Grand Forks committee chair, Audrey Lorenz. “We look forward to working with the Coalition for a Healthy Greater Grand Forks to reduce the obesity in our community by making the healthy choice the easy choice for our residents.”

We look forward to supporting our community partners this year, and know they’d appreciate your support as well. When we all work together, a healthier community is on the horizon.