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A Year In Review: Spotlight on North Dakota Department of Health Tobacco Prevention and Control Program



Gustavo Torrez
Program Manager
The Network for LGBT Health Equity

When I started working with the Network almost 4 years ago the first state I had the pleasure to visit was North Dakota. During my visit I conducted two LGBT Cultural Competency training one for their grantees, and another at their Annual Statewide Alcohol and Substance Abuse Summit. At that time they were thinking about strategies to include LGBT communities in their tobacco control work and have not looked back since. I had the privilege of going back and spoke at the 3rd annual statewide GLBTQA conference held at the University of North Dakota this past

Left to Right: Neil Charvat, Gustavo Torrez, Rep. Kayie Overson, Rep Josh Boschee, and Krista Headland
Left to Right: Neil Charvat, Gustavo Torrez, Rep. Kayie Overson, Rep Josh Boschee, and Krista Headland

April, and was overjoyed at the progress they have made over the past couple years in terms of community support for LGBT tobacco control efforts. At times we can see progress through emails and updates here and there, but to actually see the level of community support for LGBT Tobacco Control efforts was absolutely amazing. From local LGBT groups to State Representatives its was truly refreshing especially for a state like North Dakota.  Over the past couple of years work in North Dakota has not stopped, in fact the work has grown to include more and more folks in the community committed to LGBT Tobacco Control efforts in the state. Neil Charvat, Community Health Specialist with the Chronic Disease Program at the North Dakota Department of Health has truly made some huge strides in the state. Neil has been charged with the talk of LGBT inclusion efforts and has forged many partnerships which have truly shaped the direction of their efforts. Most recently, a great article was published North Dakota puts $2,500 in anti-smoking funds toward Fargo pride festival, highlighting some of these efforts.

I wanted to take a moment and showcase in depth some of the great work that has taken place over the past year, and thank Neil for his commitment to inclusion efforts in North Dakota. I am so proud of the work that he has not only accomplished, but how the Department has truly institutionalized LGBT tobacco Control efforts in North Dakota. Please read his article below as he article below –  Engaging Disparate Populations: North Dakota LGBT Communities.

Neil Charvat
North Dakota Department of Health
Tobacco Prevention and Control Program
Fiscal Year July 1, 2012 – June 30, 2013

Engaging Disparate Populations: North Dakota LGBT Communities

The Tobacco Prevention and Control Program (TPCP) in the North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) work to engage populations disparately effected by tobacco use on a statewide level. One of the populations identified by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as having high tobacco use rates and being targeted by the tobacco industry is the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community.

Efforts to engage North Dakota’s LGBT communities in tobacco control efforts have been made since 2008, varying degrees of success. The main obstacle has been identifying LGBT groups in North Dakota. The NDDoH TPCP was fortunate to become involved in Fargo-Moorhead Pridefest for the first time in 2011. FM Pridefest is the largest LGBT event held in North Dakota. This initial effort was to provide NDQuits information and materials to event attendees. In 2012 the ND DoH was again invited to be a part of FM Pridefest. In July, NDQuits marketing tools were utilized at the FM Pridefest 5K Run-Walk, and that event was tobacco-free. NDQuits material and information were promoted at the FM Pride in the Park in August. ND DoH staff attended the event. The staff was able to promote cessation efforts as well as provide information about tobacco issues that directly affected the LGBT community in North Dakota.

NDDoH TPCP staff had the opportunity to meet with Julia Geigle at the University of North Dakota. Julia is a graduate student at UND working on LGBT health issues. The meeting was to discuss the issue of tobacco use in the LGBT community, and the health impacts that resulted from that use. Information on engaging the LGBT community and promoting NDQuits cessation services were provided to Julia. As a result of this meeting, Julia invited the TPCP staff to participate in a UND LGBT conference in April, 2013. NDDoH was able to involve Gustavo Torrez from the Fenway Institute in the UND Conference. Gustavo travelled to the conference to present on LGBT tobacco and health issues. Gustavo was also able to engage North Dakota legislators in attendance by providing information on LGBT health issues. The conference was well attended by the UND LGBT campus community. As a result of the success of this event, there are plans to incorporate more events like this into the newly created ND Campus Tobacco Prevention Project. This project will involve most college campuses in North Dakota.

The NDDoH TPCP will continue to engage the LGBT in future tobacco prevention work for the next fiscal year.


Recap of the 3rd annual GLBTQA Statewide conference in North Dakota


Gustavo Torrez
Program Manager
The Network for LGBT Health Equity


I had such a great trip to North Dakota and was pleased to be asked to present and sit on the closing panel: of the 3rd annual North Dakota GLBTQA conference.ND GRoup

My session Truth: Social Justice and Health explored our work for equality and basic rights, as well as other social justice issues, such as health access and equity, which is often left out of the LGBT movement. While taking an expanded look at LGBT health disparities within the historical context of the equality movement, the presentation concentrated on tobacco use within our communities. As one of the most attended sessions, I was pleased to see the amount of support for a tobacco centered presentation at an LGBT conference. I opened the presentation with a brief history of the LGBT movement, and was surprised to find that very few of the participants knew what the Compton cafeteria riots were or even the Stonewall riots. There have been many pioneers that have shaped the future for us all and this rich history should be discussed more. Overall the presentation went really well, and I showed a video that really had people thinking about where we been and where we are going with our movement which I would like to share with you all:

The Gay Rights Movement

I always love to hear how grateful conference participates are to have national support at their “small little conference”. Our work in North Dakota would not be happening if it was not for the dedication and commitment by not only the local Department of Health, Tobacco Control Programs but more importantly the allies working tirelessly to partner with local community groups because they understand the importance of comprehensive LGBT tobacco control efforts in their state. With a focus on cessation and community partnerships, Neil Charvat, community Health Specialist with the Chronic Disease Program at the Department of Health has worked to build relationships with community groups, which led conference organizers to dedicate a workshop specific to health with a focus on tobacco control. This is a prime example of how beneficial it is to partner with local LGBT groups and organizations. I want to commend Neil and the many others for their passion for tobacco control and as allies they are shining examples of how one person can make the world of difference. I don’t think we thank the allies enough for their support as they stand in solidarity next to us working to combat tobacco use within our communities.

Left to Right: Neil Charvat, Gustavo Torrez, Rep. Kayie Overson, Rep Josh Boschee, and Krista Headland

Additionally, while at the conference I attended a morning workshop presented by Josh Boschee and Kayie Overson titled Get Engaged: Political Activism in North Dakota and Legislative Update. The workshop was an informal open discussion about how to advance issues of importance through legislation and grassroots action. While they shared their experience in political activism, opportunities for leadership development and lesions learned during the 2013 North Dakota legislative session.

I initially meet Josh a little over two and a half years ago when I was in North Dakota conducting Cultural Competency trainings for Department of health grantees, and at their annual substance abuse conference. Josh is now the first openly gay representative in North Dakota to secure a seat in the House of Representatives, representing District 44. It was great to catch up with him, and to meet District 42 Representative Kayie Overson at the conference. I am proud to see Josh in his role, as it provides hope for other LGBT young people who are interested running for public office.

I always enjoy speaking at conferences such as this. It’s so great to hear from the community on the ground, they are so grateful to have someone from a national group care about their state of North Dakota. The Network is focused on creating sustainable change; we are steadfast in supporting our states, and community groups no matter the locality.

Conferences · Presentations

Communities unite in North Dakota for the 3rd annual GLBTQA Statewide Conference – Discover The Movement


Gustavo Torrez
Program Manager
The Network for LGBT Health Equity
Good morning form chilly North Dakota



Its been over two years since I was last in North Dakota, and when I was asked to speak at the 3rd annual GLBTQA conference I was overjoyed at the progress they have made over the past couple years.  The Folks with the North Dakota Department of Health, Tobacco Control Program (DOH) are steadfastly working on LGBT inclusion efforts. While facing multiple challenges they are dedicated to ensuring comprehensive inclusion whenever possible. One of the key messages we tell states is to partner with local LGBT groups. We cannot stress this enough, if you show up to community events, conferences etc. you forge partnerships that will be invaluable in serving the community. It was the dedication of staff at the DOH, which lead conference organizers to allocate a specific slot in their agenda focused on Health and Tobacco, thus making it very difficult to say know to my friends at the DOH. This is the importance of collaborations, and making your presence known.0_0_0_0_539_404_csupload_54503476

My presentation: LGBT Health & Social Justice will take a look at our movement with a social justice framework, taking a walk through the LGBT movement, with a focus on tobacco use in the LGBT community.  I will also be sitting on a closing panel to recap the day, visioning for the future.

The conference aims to discover where the LGBTQA movement is; nationally, statewide, and personally.  With an emphasis on what the movement mean for individuals, identifying interest and direction for folks in attendance, and what folks in North Dakota can accomplish as a unified collective! With workshops designed to dig into these issues, they have various panels with community members, and Natalie (Klueg) Clark as their opening keynote.

The conference stands as a longstanding reminder of the tradition of support, education, and advocacy in GLBTQA activism in North Dakota. I look forward to a great day and most of all continued progress in North Dakota.