July 10, 2008

Contact: Sam Giammo (505) 272-3682

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Center for Health Policy at UNM and the New Mexico Medical Review Association (NMMRA), an independent health care quality improvement organization, have been awarded a project planning grant from RWJF as part of its national initiative, Aligning Forces for Quality.

The planning process, to run through the end of 2008, focuses on developing a quality improvement consortium of business, health care providers, and community leaders. If successful, the project will extend to include Bernalillo County participating in the Aligning Forces for Quality initiative, joining 14 other communities around the coun-try that are working to improve the overall quality of health care, reduce racial and eth-nic disparities and provide models for national health care delivery restructuring.

The project in Bernalillo County involves developing a multi-stakeholder coalition bringing together business and consumer representatives with health care providers, health plans and state and local government. It will establish a process for setting qual-ity improvement priorities that serve the interests of all the stakeholders and improves the care available for all who live and work in the region. This process will be used to develop and implement quality improvement strategies based on those priorities all lev-els. This structure will also drive increased transparency of data on quality and cost.

"The only way proven way to increase the quality of health care in a community requires participation by all stakeholders," said Robert Valdez, Executive Director of the RWJF Center for Health Policy and co-leader of this planning process. "This process will allow us to improve the health care available in our communities and allow us to consider how best to make it available to all."

RWJF undertook an extensive analysis and assessment of the Albuquerque community to determine its potential readiness to join the national Aligning Forces initia-tive, which included a two-day site visit to the state in August 2007.

"The Foundation is very excited to be working with Albuquerque on this planning project for the Aligning Forces for Quality initiative," said Michael W. Painter, JD, MD, senior program officer at RWJF. "The premise of Aligning Forces is that no single per-son, group or profession can improve health and health care throughout a community without the help of others. We are quite hopeful that leaders in Albuquerque will make the most of this important planning opportunity. Success at this planning stage would mean that Albuquerque would have a real shot at joining the existing 14 Aligning Forces communities in their long-term partnership with RWJF to improve health care for every-one in their communities."

Former state cabinet secretary of health and NMMRA quality improvement man-ager, Pat Montoya, RN, MPA, will co-lead this project along with Dr. Robert Valdez, PhD, executive director of the RWJF Center for Health Policy and Professor of Family & Community Medicine and Professor of Economics at the University of New Mexico.

"I look forward to working with all of my health and business colleagues to ex-plore ways in improving access to quality health care and to focus particularly in reduc-ing the widening gap between racial and socio-economic sectors in our Albuquerque community," said Dr. Paul Roth, Executive Vice President of the University of New Mex-ico Health Sciences Center.

In addition to Montoya and Valdez, collaborating in the development of the plan-ning grant were Dan Jaco, Director of NMMRA, William Wiese, MD, MPH, director of the Institute for Public Health; Patricia Boyle, RN, MSN, executive director of the New Mexico Center for Nursing Excellence; and Liz Stefanics, PhD, director of the New Mex-ico Health Policy Commission.

As both a national resource for minority health policy research and an advocate for minorities in health policy discussions, the RWJF Center for Health Policy seeks to increase the number of minority PhD graduates, particularly Hispanics and Native Americans, participating in social sciences. These individuals can serve as leaders in national debate concerning minorities and US public health policy offering their exten-sive training and knowledge of policy to promote improvements in healthcare for all.

NMMRA is a not-for-profit, physician-sponsored organization that is New Mex-ico’s federally contracted Medicare Quality Improvement Organization and Medicaid Ex-ternal Quality Review Organization. NMMRA works with health care providers, con-sumer and health care organizations, and state and federal agencies to improve the quality of health care in New Mexico.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation's largest philanthropy devoted ex-clusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change.