NEWS | Jan. 27, 2009

North Dakota health officials return from Africa

By Courtesy Story

BISMARCK, N.D. — The state health officer and an epidemiologist for the state of North Dakota recently spent a week providing a cultural communications course in Ghana, Africa.

A community engagement event for North Dakota’s State Partnership Program, the course provided a process for community leaders to determine their needs, prioritize them and then locate assets to address those needs.

Dr. Terry L. Dwelle, state health officer with the North Dakota Department of Health, and Alice Musumba, an epidemiologist III with the Department of Health, worked with 21 students from 15 organizations.

Eight of the students applied to receive graduate credits at the University of Mary, and Global Health Outreach subsidized the corresponding tuition costs.

"Dr. Dwelle is an expert in community engagement and the program we are bringing to Ghana is a five-phase program that leads to a master’s degree in public health,” said Lt. Col. David Skalicky, a plans and policies officer for the North Dakota National Guard.

Both the University of Mary and the University of Minnesota recognize the program.

"The course was well-received. Many organizational leaders expressed a need to re-evaluate and adjust their strategic approach to changing risky behaviors based on the community engagement concepts discussed in this training,” Dwelle said.

Interest in a student exchange program between North Dakota and Ghana also is being explored as a way to continue to grow from each other’s knowledge and experiences.

Since 2004, the North Dakota National Guard has developed a professional relationship with Ghana as part of the Department of Defense’s State Partnership Program. This program aligns states with partner countries to encourage the development of economic, political and military ties.

Building these relationships helps Guardsmen learn to interact within cultures with which they are unfamiliar, an increasingly important skill, while also bringing expertise and knowledge to a country anxious to prosper.

A second State Partnership Program engagement ended this past weekend. Dr. Neil Nordquist, dean of Minot State University’s College of Education and Health Sciences, spent a week in Ghana and is applying for a $50,000 grant through the U.S. Agency for International Development that would help form a plan for educational improvements in Ghana.