Community Health Councils in New Mexico
"Government public health agencies, as the backbone of the public
health system, are clearly in need of support and resources, but they
cannot work alone. They must build and maintain partnerships with
other organizations and sectors of society, working closely with
communities and community based organizations, the health care
delivery system, academia, business, and the media."
--The Future of the Public's Health in the 21st Century,
Institute of Medicine, November 2002
Background. New Mexico’s Community Health Councils are community-based health coalitions located in each of the state’s 33 counties and in 5 Native American tribal communities. New Mexico is one of 13 states that have centralized (non-county-based) health departments, resulting in critical needs for community health assessment, planning, and coordination at the local level. In 1991 the New Mexico State Legislature laid the foundation for a system of community health councils with the passage of the County Maternal and Child Health Plan Act, later amended to include tribal communities). Over the years, the councils evolved from specifically Maternal and Child Health Councils to comprehensive health councils, addressing a broad range of locally-identified health priorities.
The health councils play a key role in the state’s public health system. Health councils assess local health needs, identify gaps in services, develop community health plans and priorities, influence policy development, and coordinate community health initiatives. The health councils provide timely, local information to the New Mexico Department of Health regarding community health issues and concerns. The councils mobilize communities to address locally-identified priority issues, including youth suicide, teen pregnancy prevention, diabetes and obesity prevention, substance abuse and mental health issues, and access to primary health care.
Health council members include elected officials and tribal officials; local government representatives; school, college, and university administrators; health care providers (including hospitals and community clinics); non-profit organizations; faith communities; private citizens, and others.