Fostering the health of communities can serve as a unifying mission of the academic health center (AHC), which can set the AHC apart from other health providers in the community. To achieve this mission, the University of New Mexico's AHC is increasingly focusing education, research, and service upon the identified health and service needs of communities in its state. Since major health problems in our society have social, behavioral, and economic roots, New Mexico's AHC has tapped into the broad expertise of its different components as well as that of its state and community partners to adequately address health problems in the community. Its hospitals offer financing and management resources, its colleges offer innovative approaches to community- based education, and the state department of health offers expertise in health policy development. To adequately respond to the complexity of community health needs, the different colleges and departments at New Mexico's AHC are increasingly merging into integrated governance units. Measures of community outreach success include evidence of strengthened community development, increased health care access, and improved indices of community health. New Mexico's AHC formed an interdisciplinary rural outreach task force, which has demonstrated its ability to form partnerships with state and local agencies and to mobilize institutional resources in education, research, and service from the AHC's different departments, colleges, and hospitals to respond promptly to unique community health needs. Evidence shows that such an integrated, coordinated AHC intervention can generate strong and lasting AHC-community alliances, improve the quality and economic viability of community health systems, and enhance the financial resources of the AHC.
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