As a state, we obviously want our people to be healthy. Healthy people live higher quality lives; plus they contribute to a stronger educational system and economy. One of the most important predictors of lifelong health is a nutritious diet, especially among children. New Mexico ranks among the lowest in the nation (fourth from the bottom) for child hunger.1 As the following chart illustrates, our state is not making progress on this issue. Access to healthy food is particularly challenging in tribal and rural areas. (The government term for hunger is "food insecurity," which is defined as a lack of consistent access to enough food, or nutritionally adequate food, for an active, healthy life for all household members.)
In addition to wanting all New Mexicans to lead healthy lives, we also want to avoid disparities. Health disparities exist when members of certain groups do not benefit from the same health status as other groups. Disparities can occur along ethnic lines. However, disparities can also be related to socio-economic status, gender, access to healthcare and biological or behavioral factors.3 Disparities can be especially relevant for New Mexico, where access to healthcare is limited by high poverty rates and a dispersed population spread over a large geographical area.
Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the nation. Roughly 600 New Mexicans died of the disease last year. From 2000 to 2013 New Mexico diabetes death rates were 18–40 percent higher than the U.S. rates. Within our state, researchers see significant racial/ethnic disparities, particularly affecting Native Americans.4
Heart health is a good measure of overall health. On this front, New Mexico is doing better than the nation and—including when broken down by ethnicity—heart disease deaths are declining. Positive changes in diet, smoking, and medical care all contribute to this change.6 However, a moderate disparity continues to exist for African Americans.
There are three categories of Health Provider Shortage Area Designations (HPSA), Primary Care Medical, Primary Care Dental, and Primary Care Behavioral Health. Thirty-two of New Mexico’s 33 counties contain designated Health Professional Shortage Areas. Over 40 percent of the state’s population lives in a Primary Care Health Professional Shortage Area.8 Because of this shortage, the majority of primary care practices are rated as “full or nearly full” in terms of the number of patients that can be seen. The low number and challenging distribution of all types of healthcare professionals is a barrier to healthcare access.9
Health coverage protects individuals and families from financial risks due to unexpected, costly expenses. Insurance also promotes preventive care such as regular check-ups, screenings and immunizations.11 Lack of coverage has been associated with delayed access to healthcare and increased risk of chronic disease and mortality.
Implementation of the Affordable Care Act , federal law that reformed healthcare in the United States, began in 2010 and rolls out through 2015. The primary goal of the legislation is to create near-universal health coverage across the nation. In New Mexico and the nation, the uninsured rate is steadily dropping. However, Hispanics and Native Americans are less likely to enroll than Whites, creating a coverage disparity that exists throughout the American Southwest.12 As of 2013, about 30 percent of Hispanics were uninsured nationally, compared with 11 percent of Whites.13
Many diseases can be prevented by vaccination , including childhood diseases such as measles or polio. Preventing a disease can reduce doctor visits, hospitalizations and premature deaths.15 Among children born in the United States between 1994-2013, vaccination is estimated to have prevented 322 million illnesses, 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 deaths during their lifetimes.16 New Mexico has made very significant progress on child immunizations in the last six years.
Smoking is the most preventable cause of premature death in the United States.18 Of the ten leading causes of death in New Mexico, six are associated with tobacco use. Heart disease, cancer and other chronic diseases are associated with tobacco. In New Mexico, the burden of deaths associated with smoking is considerably greater than the burden associated with alcohol and other drugs.19 The adult smoking rate has declined slightly in the last few years. (Note: Smoking rates prior to 2011 are not available due to a nationwide methodology change in how data is collected.)
In 2012-13, the percentage of New Mexico adults who reported serious mental illnesses (4.3%) was similar to the national percentage (4.1%). Nearly half of all adults in the nation will have a diagnosable mental health condition in their lifetime. Health workers such as psychologists, licensed professional counselors, social workers, psychiatrists, psychiatric or advance practice registered nurses and certified peer support specialists can help people with behavioral or mental illness recover and lead productive lives in their communities.21
The following chart illustrates that about a quarter of mental health needs were met in New Mexico this year. The federal government determined "met need" by the ratio of population to mental health professionals. That figure is down from 30 percent in 2014, ranking us the lowest of the Four Corners states for this measure.22
New Mexico has had the highest alcohol-related death rate in the nation since 1997. The consequences of alcohol abuse are not limited to death, but also affect domestic violence, crime, poverty and unemployment. This abuse is also related to chronic liver disease, mental illness, motor vehicle crashes and other injuries. In 2006, the economic cost of excessive alcohol consumption in New Mexico was more than $1.9 billion, or $960 per person.24 In addition, New Mexico has the third highest drug overdose death rate in the nation.25
|2015||Health Information System Act amended, providing for the safe disclosure of certain health information, establishing a Health Information System Advisory Committee, and posting of information for public access.|
|2014||NM Centennial Care implemented, redesigning Managed Medicaid and integrating all Medicaid services into the managed care program, including physical health, behavioral health and long-term care services.|
|2010||Healthcare Reform Working Group charged with making recommendations on the creation of a health insurance exchange or other entity to implement federal health care reform. New Mexico Scientific Laboratories constructed, housing the Department of Health Scientific Laboratory Division and the Office of the Medical Investigator.|
|2009||Wellness in the Workplace report published, established by NM Joint House Memorial 24, addressing the cost and impact of chronic disease on the New Mexico workforce. UNM Cancer Treatment and Clinical Research Facility opened.|
|2008||Healthy New Mexico Task Force formed and charged with devising a five-year strategic plan for implementing chronic disease prevention and management measures. Medical student financial support increased. New Mexico Health Professional Loan Repayment Program funding increased.|
|2007||Legislation established cultural competence education requirements in health education programs.|
|2006||Annual racial and ethnic health disparities report card established.|
|2004||Bill requiring a comprehensive strategic plan for health passed, emphasizing prevention, personal responsibility, access and quality.|
|1991||State Health Policy Commission created, providing independent research, guidance and recommendations on issues that impact the health status of New Mexicans. Prenatal care added to Medicaid.|
|1981||Rural Primary Health Care Act passed, funding basic primary care services in community programs.|
6U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. (1999). Decline in Deaths from Heart Disease and Stroke -US, 1900-1999.
7NM Department of Health. (2013, 2015). Heath Indicator Report of Cardiovascular Disease-Heart Disease Deaths.
8NM Department of Health. (2014). Health Equity in New Mexico: A Report on Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities. 9th Edition.
9NM Health Workforce Committee. (2013). 2013 Annual Report New Mexico Health Workforce Committee.
10NM Department of Health. (2013). 2013 Annual Report: NM Medical Board . Abbreviation Legend: Primary Care Physicians, PCP; Physician Assistants, PA.; Advanced Practice Registered Nurses, APRN; Registered Nurses, RN.; Licensed Practical Nurses, LPN.
12Derksen, D. (2015) University of Arizona Center for Rural Health. Data Presented.
14NM Department of Health. (2015). Health Indicator Report of Health Insurance Coverage.
17NM Department of Health. (n.d.). NM Immunization Program. Health Indicator Report of Immunization-Childhood Coverage with 4:3:1:3:3:1:4. National Immunization Survey. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report: National, State, and Selected Local Area Vaccination Coverage Among Children Aged 19–35 Months.
20NM Department of Health. (2015). Health Indicator Report of Tobacco Use - Adult Smoking Prevalence.