A North Dakota senate committee has moved to vote out BreatheND, a tobacco prevention program.
If the bill is passed it would move eight positions and responsibilities held by BreatheND, such as education and resources for tobacco prevention to the North Dakota Department of Health.
State senator Larry Robinson (D-Valley City), doesn’t agree.
“BreatheND has been a complete success story,” Robinson said to the Bismarck Tribune. He added that regardless of the bill’s outcome, there’s going to be restructuring of the tobacco prevention services.
There are aspects of eliminating BreatheND that are both positive and negative, the positive being that it could mean a potential increase in funds going to prevention and education, according to Professor Gina Kelly, a medical sociologist.
Kelly asked if the bill would eliminate BreatheND and that money doesn’t fund the ND Department of Health, where will the money go?
She added the NDDoH already focuses on prevention, and if the funds go to the NDDoH it could be positive because the department already focuses on prevention and this could slightly strengthen it.
Kelly said BreatheND isn’t even 10 years old and asked if that is enough time to understand if a project is working or not.
It is also unclear as to when this change would occur and what will happen to the employment positions held within BreatheND.
The goal of the organization is to improve health, which Kelly said the NDDoH has had a history of being good at.
Kelly said the only reason for this restructuring to occur is if the any extra funds go to education. She added the change could mean greater efficiency and productivity in the prevention aspect of the restructuring.
Kelly said the awareness surrounding this issue will bring some sort of education and relevance to the discussion in order for this to remain relevant and important in the publics eyes, and to provide a lot of materials for education and prevention, similar to what BreatheND has done.
Kelly also said it is important to stay “critically minded” around a restructuring like this, especially since BreatheND was effective, it’s important to make sure that the goals are still being met.
If the bill passes, tobacco prevention will still be provided and relevant within North Dakota communities, however the entity managing the education and prevention will shift.