Health extension in new Mexico: an academic health center and the social determinants of disease. Academic Article uri icon


  • The Agricultural Cooperative Extension Service model offers academic health centers methodologies for community engagement that can address the social determinants of disease. The University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center developed Health Extension Rural Offices (HEROs) as a vehicle for its model of health extension. Health extension agents are located in rural communities across the state and are supported by regional coordinators and the Office of the Vice President for Community Health at the Health Sciences Center. The role of agents is to work with different sectors of the community in identifying high-priority health needs and linking those needs with university resources in education, clinical service and research. Community needs, interventions, and outcomes are monitored by county health report cards. The Health Sciences Center is a large and varied resource, the breadth and accessibility of which are mostly unknown to communities. Community health needs vary, and agents are able to tap into an array of existing health center resources to address those needs. Agents serve a broader purpose beyond immediate, strictly medical needs by addressing underlying social determinants of disease, such as school retention, food insecurity, and local economic development. Developing local capacity to address local needs has become an overriding concern. Community-based health extension agents can effectively bridge those needs with academic health center resources and extend those resources to address the underlying social determinants of disease.

publication date

  • February 2010