Healthy5
Democracy Collaborative co-founder Ted Howard discusses Healthy Neighborhoods Albuquerque.  

The University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center (HSC) is leading a coalition of local health care and educational institutions to create “Main Street” jobs in Albuquerque by buying and hiring locally in a coordinated strategy to keep more money in the area economy, it was announced Tuesday.

Healthy Neighborhoods Albuquerque includes six “anchor institutions” – UNM HSC, Presbyterian Healthcare Services, Central New Mexico Community College, Albuquerque Public Schools, First Choice Community Healthcare and the City of Albuquerque, Richard S. Larson, MD, the HSC’s executive vice chancellor, said at a news conference.

“The educational and health care ‘anchor institutions’ represented here today are committed to working together to improve the economic and social conditions in the communities that need help the most,” Larson said. “Anchor institutions are the ones that are in it for the long haul. They view their mission as extending over many decades, and they share a long-term obligation to ensure the health and well-being of our citizens. This initiative is a big step in that direction.”

The initiative, crafted with the help of Democracy Collaborative, a national non-profit consulting group, and the Albuquerque Community Foundation, will commit the partners to “hire local, buy local and provide support for local business growth,” Larson said.

The partners could, for example, leverage their collective buying power to buy produce for their food services from local farmers, providing a boost to local agriculture. Job training programs could help prepare people from disadvantaged communities for jobs in universities and hospitals.

Jim Hinton, Presbyterian’s president and CEO, said the initiative dovetails with his organization’s ongoing interest in promoting access to healthy foods to improve health and well-being on a community level. “We identified food-related issues as some of the most important ones for us,” Hinton said. “We have broadened that to eating well, being active and avoiding unhealthy substances.”

Paul B. Roth, MD, UNM’s Chancellor for Health Sciences, said the new initiative will help to address the social determinants of health – factors like education, poverty, violence, diet and personal behaviors that influence the likelihood of developing some diseases.

“With the Healthy Neighborhoods Albuquerque initiative we have a powerful new tool to influence some key determinants,” Roth said. “By working to promote sustainable local agriculture, for example, we’re helping to ensure that people have better access to healthy foods.”

Roth noted that the anchor institutions partnering in the initiative collectively have several thousand job openings each year. “About half of those thousands of open positions are for entry-level jobs,” he said. “One thing this program is going to be doing is working with APS to enroll high school students into customized training programs that will prepare them for entry-level jobs in our institutions. So we all win.”

The collaboration started in early 2016, when the Health Sciences Center engaged The Democracy Collaborative, a consultancy that had experience guiding anchor institution-based urban redevelopment in Cleveland, Ohio. There, the Cleveland Clinic, Case Western University and other institutions helped spur job growth and new construction by making targeted investments and purchasing decisions in the urban core.

Ted Howard, cofounder and director Democracy Collaborative, said the Cleveland initiative has created 1,800 new local jobs. Some 400 people have received skills training and more than 500 residents have gained access to affordable housing. Meanwhile, the initiative has attracted tens of millions of dollars in new public and private investment.

With hospitals and universities collectively accounting for $1.2 trillion in economic activity, Democracy Collaborative is helping other cities tap into a potent tool for change, Howard said. “We are delighted that your city’s anchors are now at the forefront of this national movement.”