Agriculture and Health Sectors Collaborate in Addressing Population Health. Academic Article Review uri icon


  • Population health is of growing importance in the changing health care environment. The Cooperative Extension Service, housed in each state's land grant university, has a major impact on population health through its many community-based efforts, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - Education (SNAP-Ed) nutrition programs, 4-H youth engagement, health and wellness education, and community development. Can the agricultural and health sectors, which usually operate in parallel, mostly unknown to each other, collaborate to address population health? We set out to provide an overview of the collaboration between the Cooperative Extension Service and the health sector in various states and describe a case study of 1 model as it developed in New Mexico.We conducted a literature review and personally contacted states in which the Cooperative Extension Service is collaborating on a "Health Extension" model with academic health centers or their health systems. We surveyed 6 states in which Health Extension models are being piloted as to their different approaches. For a case study of collaboration in New Mexico, we drew on interviews with the leadership of New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences; the University of New Mexico (UNM) Health Science Center's Office for Community Health; and the personal experiences of frontline Cooperative Extension agents and UNM Health Extension officers who collaborated on community projects.A growing number of states are linking the agricultural Cooperative Extension Service with academic health centers and with the health care system. In New Mexico, the UNM academic health center has created "Health Extension Rural Offices" based on principles of the Cooperative Extension model. Today, these 2 systems are working collaboratively to address unmet population health needs in their communities. Nationally, the Cooperative Extension Service has formed a steering committee to guide its movement into the health arena.Resources of the agricultural and health sectors offer communities complementary expertise and resources to address adverse population health outcomes. The collaboration between Cooperative Extension and the health sector is 1 manifestation of this emerging collaboration model termed Health Extension. Initial skepticism and protection of funding sources and leadership roles can be overcome with shared funding from new sources, shared priority setting and decision making, and the initiation of practical, collaborative projects that build personal relationships and trust.© 2017 Annals of Family Medicine, Inc.

publication date

  • December 2017