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GF conference to look at N.D. rural and public health

A forum that will gather health care professionals, researchers and legislators to discuss the status of rural and public health begins today at the Alerus Center.

A forum that will gather health care professionals, researchers and legislators to discuss the status of rural and public health begins today at the Alerus Center.

It's the first time the 25th annual Dakota Conference on Rural and Public Health will be held in Grand Forks, but organizers expect a record turnout of about 400 during the three-day event.

Tara Mertz, communications specialist for UND's Center for Rural Health, said it will help professionals earn continuing education credits on a number of topics while also allowing people from across the state to meet and exchange ideas.

"The goal really is to allow people the opportunity to collaborate, to kind of expand the rural and public health arena in North Dakota," she said.

The conference begins at 7 a.m. today. Keynote speaker Jim Hart, director of the University of Minnesota's Executive Program in Public Health Practice and the North Central Public Health Leadership Institute, will discuss the current realities of the upper Midwest's health situation at 12:45 p.m.

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UND President Robert Kelley will give a keynote address at 8 a.m. Wednesday, discussing the differences in the challenges that face rural and urban health care providers.

Wanda Agnew, Sandra Poitra and Karen Ehrens will hold a discussion on food sustainability and cultural connection to health Wednesday at 1:15 p.m.

North Dakota Sens. Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan and Rep. Earl Pomeroy will appear via videocast from Washington on Thursday at 8 a.m. to talk about the status of the state's rural and public health.

After that discussion, Office of Rural Health Policy Director Tom Morris will give an overview of public health efforts by the federal government.

"There are a lot of great parts about the conference and it brings people together," Mertz said.

The event is open to the public, and people can register at the door.

- On the Web: More details and a full schedule are available at http://ruralhealth.und.edu/dakotaconference

Reach Johnson at (701) 780-1105; (800) 477-6572, ext. 105; or send e-mail to rjohnson@gfherald.com .

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