Public Health Task Force seeks public input on health equity in New Mexico
A task force mandated by state lawmakers has been meeting since last September and is now seeking input on its recommendations to strengthen the state’s public health infrastructure in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The draft report names racism and climate change as top priorities in New Mexico.
Citing COVID-19, House Memorial 2 mandated the DOH convene this task force to improve public health toward the goal of public health equity defined by the task force as “everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible,” borrowing from the work of Paula Braveman and others. This is a working definition in much of the current New Mexico and national public health discourse.
Because “New Mexico has a centralized public health infrastructure”, HR2 demands that the task force be made up of “relevant state agencies, representatives from local and county governments, relevant academic programs and relevant nonprofit organizations.” The task force’s 29 members “work to ensure our workforce is diverse and inclusive because a workforce and leadership reflecting all people in New Mexico can best achieve health equity outcomes.”
Of the Task Force’s 29 members, half represent local, county, state, or federal government interests like DOH. Only two represent Indigenous affairs. Others come from the public university system, hospitals and clinics, and nonprofits like Planned Parenthood Rocky Mountains and Con Alma Health Foundation. Over 20 members are executive directors or officers, and secondary leaders, many of whom have led New Mexico’s response to the pandemic since 2020.
The Task Force wants public input, according to Leah Sanchez, co-executive director of the New Mexico Public Health Association (NMPHA) which had members on and provided feedback to the task force.
“I think it's going to be really important to re-envision our public health infrastructure as we try to make sure that we're resilient in the face of these future challenges,” Sanchez said.
Tessa Abeyta, the other co-director of NMPHA, added, "We're such a diverse and rich state, that each area of our state is going to be very different. So southern New Mexico is going to have different challenges than northeastern, and we want to make sure that we're getting all of those lived experiences with this input."
Of 12 suggestions, only four of them are directly linked to specific funding requests, including six entirely new DOH positions to focus on climate change, tribal relations, and health equity. The task force is scheduled to deliver the final report to the legislative Health and Human Services Committee by December 1.
They want to hear from people impacted by the pandemic, racism, and climate change among other priorities. The task force has set up five ways to get feedback listed below.
Text from the DOH
“Please review the draft report and provide feedback through one of the following ways:
- Use the QR code
- Use this link to our online survey to share your thoughts with us https://forms.office.com/g/rNsYBhgYbX.
- Email your comments to Health Equity Director T. Justin Garoutte, MPH, CPH, at Justin.Garoutte@state.nm.us.
- Call Justin with your comments at 505-946-7313.
- Mail your comments to: New Mexico Department of Health, Office of Health Equity, 1190 Saint Francis Drive, S4253, Santa Fe, NM 87505.”