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Editorial: Grants help UNM take Project ECHO abroad

It’s an echo that will be heard around the world.

The University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center has been awarded the second of two grants, together totaling almost $10 million, to expand its Project ECHO nationally and globally.

The Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes project takes specialized health care to rural areas. UNM physicians work with doctors and health care providers in rural areas to treat chronic and complicated diseases.

The program started out by focusing on treatment of hepatitis C. It also trains doctors statewide.

A three-year grant of $4.7 million – awarded recently by the GE Foundation – will be used to train nurse practitioners and other health care providers to screen, diagnose and treat mental illness and substance abuse in New Mexico. The providers will use teleconferencing to work with UNM specialists.

The second grant – $5 million from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation over two years – will go to create the ECHO Institute at UNM. Its focus will be teaching other programs and institutions around the world about setting up their own ECHO projects.

As the Affordable Care Act is implemented and more patients are enrolled in Medicaid and other health care programs, the need for trained physicians and medical professionals will expand as well.

In a rural state like New Mexico, making training and access to specialists available to under-served areas is what good public policy and use of resources is all about.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.