Richard S. Larson, MD, PhD
Richard S. Larson, MD, PhD, is executive vice chancellor and vice chancellor for research at the UNM Health Sciences Center.

Healthy Neighborhoods Albuquerque, a collaboration by local anchor institutions to grow Main Street jobs by hiring and buying locally and fostering business development in underinvested neighborhoods, garnered nearly $38,000 in a competition Friday at the Albuquerque Community Foundation’s fifth annual Great Grant Giveaway.

The 700 attendees at the fundraising event voted to designate $37,994 in grants for Healthy Neighborhoods Albuquerque out of a total of $106,000 that was available for distribution. The remainder went to two other nonprofit organizations: Albuquerque Living Cities and the Downtown Albuquerque Arts and Cultural District.

“The grant money we received today will help us as we enter the implementation phase of our programs, said Richard S. Larson, MD, PhD, executive vice chancellor at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, which initiated the project.

Healthy Neighborhoods Albuquerque was launched in 2016 with UNM, Presbyterian Healthcare Services, Albuquerque Public Schools and Central New Mexico Community College as the “anchors.” First Choice Community Healthcare and the Albuquerque Community Foundation provide valuable support by serving as the fiscal agent and convening organization, respectively.

“Wealth equals health,” said Larson, who explained that education, jobs and environment have more impact on a person’s health and well-being than care provided by doctors and nurses. “We know that if we can improve someone’s socioeconomic status we can improve their health and eventually decrease spending for health care.”

Healthy Neighborhoods Albuquerque will launch two new projects this year. Operation: Carrots, which have UNM, Presbyterian, APS and First Choice focus on procuring locally grown produce for food service operations, providing an incentive for farmers to increase their production to meet greater demand. UNM is also working with Sanctuary at ABQ to transform the defunct Pete’s Playground on the third floor of UNM Hospital into a rooftop aquaponics garden.

Project Hire, which involves UNM HSC, CNM and APS, will create a training pipeline at APS and CNM to prepare residents from targeted neighborhoods for entry-level positions at UNM and APS.

 “Anchor institutions have a long-term investment in the communities they serve,” Larson said. “They plan on timescales of decades, rather than years. We are mapping out a strategy to help grow our city’s economy for the twenty-first century.”