Saturday, June 3, 2017; Silver City, NM: New Mexico joins the ranks of 33 other states by establishing a Public Health Institute. With its headquarters in Silver City, the New Mexico Public Health Institute (NewMexPHI) plans to unify the efforts of nonprofit organizations, government, public and private sectors, hospitals, schools and communities to create more equitable health outcomes for the State’s two million residents.
NewMexPHI is funded by a $100,000 grant from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek, Michigan. The award was made to the Southwest Center for Health Innovation (CHI) to develop the structure and leadership of the Institute.
NewMexPHI Core Team member, Jerry Montoya said the Institute is needed, “We are a very unusual state. We are a large state with 33 counties and 24 Native American Nations and pueblos, including urban, rural and frontier communities.”
As a Health Promotion Program Manager for the New Mexico Department of Health, Montoya notes, “Most of the health resources and services are located along the Interstate-25 corridor.” This centralization of services leaves rural and frontier communities, which comprise 50 percent of the state, facing long journeys to access needed health services or having to do without, a situation that fuels further health inequities.”
Charlie Alfero, Executive Director of the CHI and NewMexPHI core team member, puts the geographical inequity in perspective, “If you have to be flown out of your community because of chest pains to receive medical care, you are clearly living in a rural or frontier community.”
Specifically located in the rural southwest corner of the state, NewMexPHI will work to maximize positive health conditions including racial and geographic equality for the most vulnerable populations and communities.
According to the U.S. Census, New Mexico has the highest ethnic population in the nation, with 48% of the population identifying as Hispanic or Latino. New Mexico also includes six of the 100 most diverse cities in the nation, according to a recent study by Wallethub, which examined racial and ethnic diversity as part of the “cultural diversity” section.
NewMexPHI Coordinator, Alisha Herrick said, “Our state’s diversity will be the key to our Public Health Institute’s success.” A longtime New Mexico resident, Herrick has a Masters’ Degree in Public Health from University of Texas Health Science Center and is a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES).
Alfero praised Herrick’s abilities and noted, “Her understanding of population and public health information will be key to the Institute’s upcoming efforts.” These efforts include an assessment of health data gaps and researching policies to address health equity in the state.
In the fall of 2017, NewMexPHI will partner with the University of new Mexico’s College of Population Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Center for Health Policy to co-host an “Equity in Policy Institute.” The effort will focus on racial and geographic health equity and social justice issues to advance the health and well-being of children and families in New Mexico.
NewMexPHI Core Team member, Susan Wilger said, “The Institution is not only looking at how we make an impact with current residents, but with New Mexico’s future generations.” Wilger also serves as Director of the National Center for Frontier Communities.