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Legislators should support public health

I'm looking forward to an impactful career in public health while I work towards a Master's in Public Health at North Dakota State University.

My professors there have opened my eyes to the incredible benefits local public health units bring to our communities.

We need to do more to support local public health units, and that starts with preserving BreatheND. This program assists public health by providing funds, education and resources to comprehensively combat tobacco use. BreatheND has built lines of communication between all counties in the state so they have access to some of the best tobacco education resources in the country. In doing so, BreatheND provides each county the tools to implement tobacco-free policies at schools and parks. These strategies are well studied for their ability to reduce smoking rates in young people especially. Without such resources public health infrastructure will be handicapped while a generation of young North Dakotans will likely pay for the consequences with addiction and disease.

Tobacco use causes more preventable deaths than anything else in our state. Every year it prematurely takes 1,000 lives in North Dakota. Moreover, it's estimated that North Dakota spends $756 per capita on direct medical expenditures and lost productivity due to smoking. We have so much to gain by keeping our future generations tobacco-free. There is truly no greater impact we can have for the health of all North Dakotans than to curb the toll tobacco takes on us.

If legislators choose to fold BreatheND, they are ripping powerful resources away from our local public health units. My fellow students and I cannot understand why the Legislature is denying North Dakotans this right to better health care by denying public health units the chance to better serve us.

Governor Burgum, we're calling on you to step in and do the right thing. Save BreatheND.

Samuel Marihart