A book fell into my life that took all my ideas about keeping my patients healthy and focused them like a laser beam into a framework for action.
The book, “100% Community,” spoke to me in a very deep way and I was literally catapulted into an all-consuming project that I consider a groundbreaking initiative, one with the power to improve the lives of all the residents of my county of San Miguel.
This new initiative I have devoted my time to, outside of my very full-time job as a medical director managing 20 health clinics and seeing patients, could be a plan for every county at a time when local leaders are looking for a way to keep their people healthy and stable during what is sure to be a very difficult economic time.
As a health care provider serving some of New Mexico’s most vulnerable families, I’ve known what public health professionals know in every county, that our state’s low ranking when it comes to health indicators makes us very vulnerable, especially during a pandemic. In academic circles, we use terms such as health disparities to describe how so many people, sometimes entire families, slip through the cracks and end up with serious health challenges. And this was before COVID-19. Before our economy took a long, painful pause.
That book I mentioned previously, whose full title is “100% Community: Ensuring Ten Vital Services for Surviving and Thriving,” by Katherine Ortega Courtney, Ph.D., and Dominic Cappello, has become my blueprint and manual for guiding the San Miguel County 100% Community initiative.
The hypothesis described in the book is simple:
If we provide to all county residents the 10 vital services for surviving and thriving, we increase their capacity for good health and positive outcomes from birth to work to retirement, including school achievement, job readiness and self-sufficiency.
It all sounds so radically simple. Ten services. Five services, coined the “services for surviving,” include medical and mental health care, food and housing security programs, and transport to services. The five “services for thriving” include parent supports, early childhood learning, fully resourced community schools with health clinics, and youth mentors. The tenth vital service, quite prophetic given our national economic free fall, is job training aligned with the job market.
The 100% Community effort is not an initiative I took on lightly. I’m bombarded with requests to work on all sorts of projects and, in an attempt to keep work hours below 90 a week, ensuring time with my family, I have to decline most. But there was something about the term 100%. Everyone. Everywhere.
The goal of the initiative is to ensure that all county residents are fully resourced to weather any storm, be it a pandemic or financial downturn. With 10 vital services secured, it’s clear our county coalition can, in time, increase the resilience of individuals, families, communities and the entire county. Our initiative’s 10 action teams, using data to identify and address gaps in the 10 vital services, know that we can strengthen our county’s capacity to maintain stability and endure colliding crises.
With the 100% Community initiative, we are partners with the sheriff, county leaders, the city’s economic development task force and emergency management. We are strengthening our network of residents, elected leaders, stakeholders and students, guided by the community values of investing in learning, working and collective problem-solving.
We think of each of the 10 vital services as pieces of a 10-piece puzzle; when put together, they can form a complete picture. In this case, it’s an image of a healthy and empowered New Mexican family living in a well-resourced and caring community.
As a medical director watching the impact of the pandemic and economic disruption, it all comes down to one simple question: What percentage of New Mexicans should have access to timely medical care and the other vital services for surviving and thriving?
For our San Miguel County initiative, the answer is 100%.
Matt Probst is the medical director of El Centro Family Health in Northern New Mexico. The 100% Community book may be downloaded, free of charge, at www.AnnaAgeEight.org.