For discussion

November 2023

North Dakota Wellness Chats: Building awareness, one month at a time

Grace Karikari, PhD MPH
Grace N. Njau, PhD, MPH

Grace Karikari, PhD MPHDr. Grace Karikari, fondly known as Dr. Gee, is an assistant professor and educator scholar with the Indigenous Health Department, University of North Dakota School of Medicine & Health Sciences. Both her MPH and PhD (Health Behavior) as well as a graduate certificate in gerontology and health are from IU Bloomington School of Public Health. She is also a certified health education specialist, and a certified health and wellness coach. Dr. Karikari is committed to making public health, especially holistic health and wellness, translational.

Grace N. Njau, PhD MPH – Dr. Grace N. Njau is the director of the Division of Special Projects and Health Analytics at the North Dakota Department of Health. She also serves as community faculty at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences and at North Dakota State University (NDSU). Dr. Njau received her master’s from the University of Colorado and her doctorate in comparative and experimental medicine at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Dr. Njau is passionate about all-things-data, and especially rapid and targeted data communication and dissemination to inform positive behavioral changes, health policy and program planning.


Introduction to the health communication need in the state  
Public health communication is a cornerstone in the implementation of public health strategies. By effectively communicating to our intended audiences, public health workers are able to bridge information and resources to communities. As evidence-based practices are developed, it serves us all to communicate them in the most user-friendly format to ensure that all communities have access to the tools and resources necessary to empower themselves.

Addressing the community health need 
This pilot vlog project was created as part of a larger initiative to be more present in North Dakota communities. As previously demonstrated in various studies, poor communication can be instrumental in creating unnecessary anxiety and in dissuading communities from taking necessary actions in the event of an emergency or in chronic situations. Hence, the goal of North Dakota Wellness Chats is to simplify health and wellness information for a general audience.

In addition to building trust and connection, effective public health communication is important for several reasons:

  • It can help save lives by educating people on preventing the spread of diseases, promoting healthy behaviors, and encouraging people to seek early medical care. For example, public health communication campaigns have been instrumental in reducing smoking rates, increasing vaccination coverage, and promoting HIV/AIDS prevention.
  • It can help to reduce health disparities by reaching and empowering underserved and marginalized communities, and to promote health equity. For example, public health communication campaigns have been used to address health disparities in areas such as maternal health, infant mortality, and chronic diseases.
  • It can help to build healthier communities by promoting social norms that support healthy behaviors and creating supportive environments for healthy living. For example, public health communication campaigns have been used to promote physical activity, healthy eating, and smoke-free homes.


North Dakota Wellness Chats
Our pilot vlog project- dubbed North Dakota Wellness Chats is a collaboration between the North Dakota Department of Health and Human Services (NDHHS) and the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences. The purpose of this pilot is to highlight the key public health observances on any given month with a special emphasis on health disparities and concerns that are emerging or are persistent in the state. As part of this initiative, Dr. Grace Karikari and Dr. Grace Njau will interview experts, persons affected, other local partners, and stakeholders on any given health and wellness issue. These conversations will focus on wellness trends, emerging issues, resources, and innovative strategies that are available to North Dakota residents.

Overall, the North Dakota Wellness Chats aim is to enhance health literacy in North Dakota through creative and innovative ways, among the general and disparate populations in the state.

The specific objectives of the vlogs are to:

  • Highlight health celebration(s) or observance(s) going on in each month.
  • Provide education on the subject/topic.
  • Highlight resources available to residents of North Dakota. 
  • Involve/interview experts in the state and local communities.

What people should expect from the vlogs?
Through these conversations, people can expect to acquire knowledge and be equipped to make healthier choices for themselves and our communities.

North Dakota Wellness Chats are available on the NDSU Center for Social Research’s (CSR) YouTube channel. Currently posted North Dakota Wellness Chats include:

  • Women’s Health Month with Kim Hruby
  • Men’s Health Month/ND Fatherhood Survey with Dr. Craig Garfield
  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Awareness Month with Dr. Larry Burd 
  • Mental Health Matters with Mandy Iverson
  • Breastfeeding Awareness Month with Kim Hinnenkamp and Mikaela Schlosser
  • Social Isolation in Aging with Dr. Jeremy Holloway

Additional North Dakota Wellness Chats will become available on the CSR’s YouTube channel each month. Future topics may include:

  • One Health
  • Diabetes Awareness
  • Birth Defects Awareness
  • Maternal Health

Make sure to check back for NEW North Dakota Wellness Chats!


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North Dakota Compass

Center for Social Research
North Dakota State University

Compass created by:
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