Bringing an established statewide network of outreach to New Mexicans together with new access to experts on health care may result in a new level of health-related support for many rural state residents.
Leaders at New Mexico State University and the University of New Mexico have developed a proposal to use the existing Cooperative Extension Service network throughout the state to significantly boost the level of health services available to New Mexicans.
The two universities have developed a memorandum of understanding that will partner NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service with UNM's Institute for Community Health Sciences, an institute within UNM's Health Sciences Center. One provision of the agreement would explore the possibility of placing public health students from UNM in about five CES sites as a pilot program for the partnership.
"It's just an exciting relationship with UNM," said NMSU President Garrey Carruthers. "We have different niches, and every now and then they will come together in a worthwhile program. This partnership can truly make a difference in the lives of many New Mexicans."
"It's an excellent example of both the land-grant college in collaboration with UNM so we can leverage resources to broaden our capacity and reach to citizens we serve as it relates to health and health issues," said Jon Boren, director of NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service. "We have health-related programs in every county. This gives us a chance to build our capacity. This would go statewide very rapidly. That's the beauty of the Cooperative Extension model. Once we identify a direction, we can move very quickly."
"With Cooperative Extension Service offices already providing a great deal of nutrition and health-related programming across the state, such as diabetes cooking schools, the new agreement would bring UNM's added medical expertise to residents through those established channels in communities," Boren said.
"We are trained in many areas, but we would benefit from the medical experts," said Bruce Hinrichs, associate director of the Cooperative Extension Service. "This would be especially helpful in connecting people with medical knowledge with the more rural areas. We're not doctors, we're not nurses. This will meld right in with those programs already in place at CES offices."
Esther Devall, Extension Family and Consumer Sciences department head, said the partnership also would increase the opportunities to educate New Mexicans about the many options they have in the new federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
"Our intention is to help people navigate through the choices they will need to make," she said.
In addition, the partnership will explore opportunities to provide training for Family and Consumer Sciences master's level family therapy students about using distance education technologies, such as UNM's Center for Telehealth, to work with families with behavioral health needs in distant and rural communities.