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Andrew's Testimony on new EPA Methane Rules

Oil and Gas emissions pose an imminent public health threat. During an EPA listening session for the upcoming oil and gas methane rule, we heard from our own Andrew Baker on the need for action to curb emissions from oil and gas. The full transcript of his statement is below.

If you'd like to provide your own public comment, submissions are open until July 30, 2021 at this link.

            Hello, my name is Andrew Baker and I’m a policy analyst with Health Action New Mexico. I’m a recent graduate of the University of New Mexico’s College of Population Health, and I’ve lived in New Mexico since I was 4 years old.

            I would like to thank the Environmental Protection Agency for allowing me to speak at this hearing today as a member of the public. I believe that the proposed methane rule is in the interest of the health of New Mexicans, and I would like to voice my support. Right now, there are over 130,000 New Mexicans living within a mile of an active oil/gas operation, many of whom are traditionally disadvantaged. As a matter of environmental justice, it’s important that we address emissions across all lands, not just areas with a high population density – more than 1 in 3 New Mexicans live in a rural area, so this issue is especially important for my state.

            To demonstrate the effects of oil and gas emissions on our communities, I’d like to share some findings from a Health Impact Assessment conducted last year in Counselor, New Mexico. This assessment found that residents who lived within line-of-sight of an oil and gas operation (more than ten percent of the population) suffered respiratory symptoms after drilling began near their homes, which is consistent with national health studies. While these symptoms can’t all be attributed to methane emission, we know that methane is a precursor to formaldehyde and is found with other volatile organic compounds and emissions from the oil and gas industry that may increase the rates of these symptoms. Beyond those direct health impacts, people are anxious about the lack of information around the safety of their air, and the impacts of oil and gas pollution compound with health impacts of other particulate matter. I’ve grown up dealing with occasionally poor air quality from dust storms and wildfires, and it’s tough to be outside, but I couldn’t imagine dealing with that short-term stress if I had an underlying respiratory condition.

            New Mexicans care deeply about our relationship with the environment – we’re the Land of Enchantment, and there are plenty of cultures that have been here before the USA was a country, that place an emphasis on environmental stewardship. There’s a deep understanding in New Mexico that the health of our environment is closely tied to the health of our people, but our laws have not caught up with that understanding. I’ll often run into people on the trail or on our public lands who have moved here for the climate, because our dry air helps with respiratory issues, because we’ve only got 4 or 5 days without sunshine per year, and because there are so many outdoor areas for recreation, all put at risk by methane emissions. As a young person, I’ve also experienced the generational anxiety around climate change and pollution. I know many people who have seen the lack of action on climate issues and used that to justify pessimism and nihilism. I have friends who have taken direct action to curb their impact on the climate – I’m one of many people who’ve changed their diet and behaviors to lessen our impact, and plenty of my friends try to stay up to date with the latest news about what they can do to improve their impact on the world, but it’s tough to make those personal commitments when the actions of industry are such an overwhelming factor in climate change. It’s heartbreaking to hear my friends say that they don’t believe it’s ethical to have children, but we are seeing significant impacts to our health and our climate from this pattern of oil and gas development, and it’s tough to convince them to be hopeful.

            I had the chance to sit in on a meeting of the New Mexico Environmental Department’s Ozone Attainment Initiative during initial public comment back in 2019, and it was encouraging to see all the engagement on such an important environmental issue, but there were plenty of points in the meeting where members of the public had questions about the environmental impacts of oil and gas, or methane more specifically – and the line they were given was that the rules didn’t allow for measurement of methane directly, but that ozone could be used as a proxy. More recently, we’ve seen that some of the worst polluters in the country have used the opacity around those rules to self-report their methane emissions and downplay the severity of the harm to the climate and to our health at all levels. I’m hopeful that this rule can capitalize on that engagement and allow local advocates to learn more about what’s in their air and how it affects their health.

            Finally, I’d like to urge this committee to look at some additional actions that can improve the health of our communities. That Counselor study found that residents often did not receive information on projected exposure, or times when emissions would be at their peak. That information is vital for people to make decisions about their health – the dose makes the poison, and if people can take actions to lower their exposure, we should give them the tools to do so. I can see a dust storm and stay inside, but we need special cameras to detect the presence of oil and gas emissions. It’s also important that we have more transparency around emissions compliance – during our last state legislative session we gave our environmental improvement board the authority to deny permits to producers who have not complied with regulations, but this information is often tough to find and not standardized. This is to underline that while state action is possible, we need strong federal actions, and really action at all levels to support this goal.

            Again, I’d like to thank the EPA for addressing this critical issue. Increased commitment to methane emissions is important for the health the environment and all people, but especially for New Mexico and our historically underrepresented communities. New Mexicans have been begging for action, and I hope that this rule is a first step in a comprehensive process to protect our health and our environment.

Health Action

It's Simple: Medications Don't Work if People Can't Afford Them

At Health Action NM, we've partnered with the New Mexico Coalition for Affordable Prescriptions, NMCAP, to advocate for the creation of a Prescription Drug Affordability Board to help ensure that New Mexicans can count on affordable medications. Here, Albuquerque resident Jeanne Hamrick explains how out-of-pocket expenses for her medication have impacted her life. With so many New Mexicans experiencing serious hardships due to the cost of their essential prescriptions, there has never been a better time for drug pricing reform.

Jeanne has Multiple Sclerosis and is struggling to pay the prescription costs for her essential medication. Watch the full story below.


Health Action

Happy New Year from Health Action NM!


Dear Health Action New Mexico Supporters,

Our HANM Board and Team extends our best wishes for a peaceful and safe New Year’s holiday.

We have all passed through a rare moment of history as the pandemic has swept through our communities and impacted our lives in unimagined ways.   While some express a desire for a return to “normal”, normal will never be for those who have suffered devastating loss and major changes to their lives.  Due to the pandemic, we can no longer deny that “normal” was filled with major inequities including access to health care and health, was molded by deeply embedded racism, and among other things, left us in the lurch with a hollowed-out public health system.  Our task is to not return to the old normal, but to instead, craft a new reality that addresses in bold ways the serious challenges and social justice issues that the pandemic laid bare. Our systems and institutions must be fundamentally reconstructed.

Health Action New Mexico (HANM) has spent 25 years advocating for system changes built on patient rights and the access of all New Mexicans to the basic right of affordable, accountable health care. In the 2020 Session, we worked on issues of affordable health coverage including the popular Medicaid Buy-In and consumer relief efforts from of the high costs of medications.

Currently HANM is working in 5 advocacy areas. In selecting our issues, we draw on the policy solutions and innovation from across the country, while learning realities from grassroots communities in NM and crafting our own NM responses for change.

1)     We are excited to join other states in taking head-on the structural issue of unaffordable prescription drug prices.  The ONLY part of health care that has no regulation is the setting of drug prices by manufacturers.  As a result, escalating drug prices are a main driver of increasing healthcare costs and making necessary medications out of reach of many people.   A HANM commissioned poll on prescription drug affordability this fall by GBAO Polling found 44% of New Mexicans reporting not filling a prescription or missing medications due to costs. This is double the national rate. HANM and other key partners such AARP have formed a NM Consumers for Affordable Prescriptions Coalition and will introduce legislation to set up a Prescription Drug Affordability Board as MD and MN have already done and 14 states are reviewing legislation to do so.  Read more about it at the Coalition website: Or better yet consider becoming a member and have your organization or business do so as well.  

PDAB Patient Story:

Meet Mr. Val Anaya:

  • Lives in Socorro NM
  • Husband, and father of two
  • Member of Government Abilities Planning Council, on the El Camino Real Housing Authority, Emergency Housing for Socorro County, Valencia County, Torrance County, and Taos County, Elevate the Spectrum

"My wife works at New Mexico Tech, she does conference coordinating work for the different facilities there at New Mexico Tech, and we’re covered under New Mexico Tech’s program of Insurance. So she pays close to $800 a month for a family of four, and even with that, there were times that my insulin bill was $400 a month...Healthcare is always an issue — it’s enough when you’re in good health, but if you have any kind of condition, you know, even with insurance, copays end up being quite high, and prescriptions are quite high, so, it’s rough."

2)     Half of the uninsured in NM are Medicaid or BeWell Exchange eligible for low cost or no cost health coverage but are unaware of their eligibility or, for various reasons, have not investigated the possibility. HANM has been working with the Tax and Revenue Department and other stakeholders to set up an Easy Enrollment system. Starting in 2022, uninsured tax filers will be notified of their eligibility for coverage and will link them up with coverage, in come cases by simply checking a box.  Enabling legislation for Easy Enrollment will be in this session and your support is appreciated. Learn more at

3)     HANM is working on a small but important project: Rural Voices for Covid Recovery. We have convened six small rural collaboratives to identify regional gaps in Covid relief, develop and support local solutions and work for new community realities as Covid recovery begins.  It is not only essential that NM rural communities be at the table but that we the public and decisionmakers hear and learn from their resilience.  You can learn from some of their conversations at our blog:

4)     HANM chairs the NM Dental Therapy Coalition which continues to monitor and contribute comments to the rule making process of the 2019 dental therapy licensing legislation and work to ensure implementation of legislation in NM.   We also work as an ally to the tribes and Southwest Indian Polytechnic Institute in setting up dental therapy programs in Indian Country. We are past a time when affordable dental care is not integral to overall healthcare.

5)     HANM is committed to public education of the public health issues of oil and gas pollution in our state.  We held a recent webinar on public health and climate change, are a member of the NM Methane Coalition and testify on health issues and pollution. 


HANM is a privately funded non-profit.  Our legislative work is not covered by private foundations and only your contributions allow us to do this advocacy as well as other work not covered by philanthropy.  We are a small organization taking on the biggest issues preventing access to healthcare for New Mexicans.  Please make a vital contribution so we can sustain and grow our work.  You can give by credit card at or by mailing a check to HANM, 3700 Osuna Rd NE, Ste 504, ABQ, NM 87109.


Thank you for your generosity and continued support!


Barbara Webber

Executive Director



Health Action

Happy Thanksgiving from Health Action New Mexico!

With the historic pandemic ravaging communities across the state and our country, 2020 has proven to be a year that has tested us like no other with much heartache, uncertainty, loss and suffering.  Yet it is a year that has made clear  the challenges we face and for which we must find solutions, especially health injustice, racial inequity and poverty. 


From our team at Health Action NM,  we wish you and yours a safe and connected Thanksgiving. It is you our supporters, Board members, fellow advocates and resilient community members that continue to define the vision that makes our work possible.

Giving Opportunities

As you make decisions this holiday season about where to direct your resources, please remember Health Action NM. Our work would not be possible without supporters like you. Here are two simple ways to give to Health Action this coming week:

By selecting Health Action as your preferred non-profit on Amazon Smile, and by making a contribution through MobileCause, you help continue our mission to ensure equal access to quality health care for all New Mexicans.

Health Action

A Personal Story of COVID-19

While it may be easy to get burnt out from all of the coverage around COVID, it's still important to remember that this is a disease that affects real people. Some of those affected are close to home, please take a moment to read the experiences of our very own Gabriella Rivera;

240,000 dead Americans. 1.28 million dead worldwide.

2 of those were my wonderful grandmothers.

I get it. This is awful. It seems never-ending. The restrictions seem oppressive. So many things we all love are banned right now. I get it.
I love going out to eat with friends and family. I love gathering and celebrating. I love interacting with coworkers. I can’t stand being cooped up in my house all day staring at a computer screen.
I loved my grandmothers more.
I love traveling. I’ve had to cancel several major trips and missed out on some great opportunities because of travel restrictions.
I loved my grandmothers more.
I LOVE sports. They sustained me as a kid and they’ve retained a central role in my adult life. Rugby and its community have been one of the most important discoveries in my life.
I loved my grandmothers more.
I love concerts. I love the balloon fiesta and the state fair. I love in-person classes and face-to-face collaboration. I miss a million things about “normal” life.
I love my grandmothers more, and they are both gone now because of Covid. They didn’t have the choice to stay home-they caught it from nurses and caregivers who had no choice but to take public transit and get essentials from the store. The waitstaff at restaurants who serve you when you choose to eat inside don’t have a choice. The clerks at the grocery store don’t have a choice. Healthcare works are drowning, and they don’t have a choice. This isn’t about fear or control, it’s about compassion.
I am exhausted with all of the restrictions. I am deeply concerned for our small businesses and kids growing up in this world. I am furious that billionaires have become trillionaires because of generous bailouts while our ineffectual federal government plays checkers.
This should have been under control. Our government failed to do so. Every other country enjoyed a few months of almost-normalcy before getting hit by this second wave. We never recovered from the first.

We can have genuine policy discussions about this. How to keep kids from taking their own lives, how to keep our small businesses from going under. But I am so, so tired of all the posts acting like people aren’t dying from this. They are, and it’s not your right to cause more death.

Health Action

New Mexicans Need Protection from Methane Gases

Since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak in New Mexico, media attention has rightly focused on two things: the health statistics of COVID-19 and the economic impact to our state.

Because our economy is intricately tied to the oil and gas industry, the industry’s plight is not far behind in terms of sympathetic media coverage. But lost in the coverage is a far more dangerous crisis that has been brewing even before the pandemic: the devastating impacts of the oil and gas industry on New Mexicans’ health.

More than 130,000 New Mexicans live within a half-mile of oil and gas development, and for decades we have known those living close to constant pollution suffer from higher rates of cancer, birth defects, asthma and other serious health issues. The double impact of these pollution health issues and the severe impacts from COVID-19 means strong regulations on the oil and gas industry are more important than ever.

This year, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s administration released a set of draft rules to limit harmful methane and ozone pollution from oil and gas production in New Mexico.

The rules are a good first step for methane regulation, but the exemptions they contain mean they might not be effective at lowering emissions and protecting the air we breathe. Exemptions for stripper wells and the 15-ton-per-year pollution threshold for volatile organic compounds, for example, would exempt 95 percent of all the wells in New Mexico — huge loopholes.

As a result, these regulations fail communities that have been hardest hit by the pandemic, and once again public health impacts are being pushed to the back burner.

Last year, a group of concerned Carlsbad residents began meeting to discuss the impact of oil and gas in their town. The latest methane emissions data from the Permian Basin are the highest ever recorded. New Mexico already had a methane waste problem that costs the state millions of dollars in revenue, but it is getting worse.

Even though our state is a large oil and gas producer, we have had limited regulations on how to handle methane waste. We have needed these rules and regulations, but the industry has fought against them tooth and nail, arguing that they can regulate themselves.

In the meantime, local communities are left to fend for themselves. For example, the organization Citizens Caring for the Future filed 67 complaints to the New Mexico Environment Department between March 2018 and 2020. Most were met with silence, it said. The group’s plight is further documented in a video released recently by the nonprofit Climate Advocates Voces Unidas; we do well to listen to New Mexicans’ stories and do more to protect their health.

With the recent plunge in oil and gas tax revenue, we know the governor and Legislature face tough challenges. As they work to support our public health system, they should remember that New Mexicans are in desperate need of protection from methane and ozone — during and beyond the pandemic.

We call on the governor and state regulators to disregard the pushback from the oil and gas industry and be vigilant in enforcing strong regulations to protect the health of all New Mexicans — and call on the Legislature to back them up. As the coronavirus pandemic continues, and well after it is over, we must pay closer attention to the needs of citizens living near oil and gas development, especially those in rural communities and tribal lands where health systems already are stretched thin. If we do not, this will only claim more lives and rob the health of our citizens.

Health Action

Make Your Voice on Climate Change Heard!

Climate change poses a serious and present risk to public health. We recently held a webinar (available here) about the risks that New Mexico faces if pollution and climate change are allowed to go unchecked. New Mexico's state and local government has committed to make changes to how we handle oil and gas pollution, but  new proposed rules would exempt the majority of polluters from any new regulation. Five counties in New Mexico are within 95% of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards and without effective action at the state level, New Mexico may face strict regulation from the federal government. We encourage you to submit a public comment on these draft rules before the end of the comment period tomorrow, September 16th, 2020.

NMED Air Quality Bureau:

EMNRD Oil Conservation Division:


If you would like guidance on a comment, we at Health Action New Mexico have the following recommendations:


For the New Mexico Environmental Department: Please remove loopholes that would exempt the vast majority of wells from leak detection and repair. This is unacceptable. Please remove the exemption for stripper wells and the 15 tons per pear pollution threshold for volatile organic compounds.


For the Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources Department: Please set the requirement for gas capture  by locality either by county or basin.  If not, companies operating in multiple localities could just elect one locality and disproportionately affect one or the other basins in NM and will not reach the 98% capture goal set by the NM Oil Conservation Division.

Health Action

The Climate Crisis and our Health -- Why Action Matters Now in New Mexico

Full slides for the webinar are available at:

Full video of the webinar is here:

Included below is a text transcript of the slides from the webinar presenters:

Impacts of Climate Change across New Mexico

Dave DuBois

New Mexico State Climatologist


There’s no doubt that we’re warming

Temperature trend per decade in summer (JJA) since 1970 by climate division

Data source:


Recent Observations of Change

Temperatures of last decade were warmest of this century

Morning lows getting warmer on top of urban heat island (not all locations)

Longer growing season, more allergens

Freezing level higher in elevation

Dust storms not only affecting human health but slowly changing snowmelt timing


Climate Change in the West

Warmer – sure bet (happening)

Hotter/longer heatwaves – sure bet (happening)

Less snow – excellent odds (happening)

Drier soils – excellent odds (happening)

Less late winter snow/rain – good odds (happening)

Less water in rivers – good odds (happening)

More frequent/severe drought – good odds

Hotter drought – excellent odds (happening)


Water Resources

Declines in snowpack

Less water available for agricultural users

More rain than snow during winter

Earlier snowmelt

Lower soil moisture in the summer


Impacts to Agriculture

Higher evapotranspiration, stress on plants, higher water needs

Lack of forage during hotter and drier droughts

Forage quality could change negatively

Costs of hauling water and supplemental feed

Higher water requirements for animals during heat waves

Reliability of existing water sources threatened


Health Concerns with Changing Climate

Heat waves – increased probabilities, higher overnight temperatures

Allergens – earlier & longer frost-free season, longer allergy season

Wildfires – frequency and size to increase; fine particulates or smoke to increase, impacts large areas & can be transported long distances

Drought – increases concentrations of pathogens, impedes hygiene

Drinking water – impacting surface water storage


Health Effects of Air Pollutants in Las Cruces

Using data from Memorial Medical Center 2007-2010 linking air pollutants in Las Cruces with emergency room visits (Rodopoulou et al. 2014)

12.4% increase in cardiovascular ER visits for PM10 for all adults in the warm season (April-September)

5.2% increase in respiratory ER visits for PM2.5 excluding high wind days


Heat-related Illnesses

Mild symptoms to life-threatening conditions

Heat cramps

Heat exhaustion

Heat stroke


Most frequent weather-related cause of injury and death in the United States

Expected to increase, as extreme heat events are expected to become more common and more severe


US Electricity Generation


Electrical Generation in US


Our direction forward

Opportunities for new solar plants both PV and concentrating solar

Expand wind energy sector

Expand residential, commercial and governmental rooftop solar

Also need to utilize geothermal resources

Electrify transportation powered by renewable energy

Develop comprehensive state-wide resilience and adaptation plans


Dr. Dave DuBois

State Climatologist
New Mexico State University


Environmental Justice & Public Health: 
The View from the Navajo Nation

Adella Begaye – Diné CARE


Education and nursing

Heath Educator, BSN and Public Health, Public Health Administrator

Tribal health educator, pediatric nursing, OPD supervisor-infection control, specialty nursing – ICN and safety, PHN supervisor/director, 30 years in Commission Corps


COVID-19 shines light on air quality

Air pollution exacerbates lung and heart disease.

CDC warns underlying health conditions increase risk of COVID-19 complications, adverse outcomes.

We must protect our health and climate in this time of crisis.


Native Americans disproportionately impacted by oil and gas pollution

Navajo leaders and community members call on state and federal govt to limit oil and gas pollution, clean up our air.

Ozone pollution from methane emissions threatens all New Mexicans, but disproportionately impacts children, Native Americans and those living in poor, rural communities.

More than half of all Native Americans in San Juan County – about 24,600 people – live within a mile of a wellsite.


Health impact assessment

Health impact assessment conducted in Counselor, Torreon and Ojo Chapters of Navajo Nation.

Possible childhood and birth impacts due to exposure to well emissions.

80% of Counselor residents reported exposure to VOCs.

Long-term VOC impacts include liver, kidney and nervous system damage.


Climate change threatens Navajo communities, demands action

Climate change means less water and more heat waves, is a potential public health crisis.

30% of Navajo residents lack municipal water, 40% lack electricity.

Must stop emissions at the source to cut pollution, protect health.

Strong methane rule in NM is critical for climate and environmental justice.


Public Action for Climate and Our Health in New Mexico

Barbara Webber Executive Director


NM’s air quality is deteriorating!

The America Lung Association (ALA)’s recent report gave Eddy, Lea and San Juan counties failing grades for ozone pollution and high ozone days.

Nearby counties did not fare much better.

The 5 NM counties home to  97% of the state’s oil and gas are all at risk for violating the federal clean air standards.




Ozone pollution poses a serious health threat, especially for children, elders, and rural communities of color.

Oil and gas is responsible for 300,000 metrics tons of the compounds that turn into ozone smog every year.

An extensive body of scientific research, including by the US Environmental Protection Agency demonstrates a causal or likely causal relationship between ozone exposure and respiratory distress, heart problems, premature death, strokes and neurological effects. 

Especially troubling given our current public health crisis and the CDC findings of the CDC that those with underlying respiratory and heart conditions are at great risk for worse outcomes of COVID-19

Data sources:


In NM, 138,399 people live within ½ mile of 55,227 oil & gas facilities as do 99 schools and child care centers.


Protecting our children’s health.

Asthma is now the most common non communicable disease in children in the US.  In NM our asthma rate is higher than the national rate

The highest ER visits and admissions due to asthma are in the Southeastern part of NM. 


Studies have found that living close to oil & gas facilities:

Increases risk of congenital birth defects by 40 – 70%

Increases low weight and pre-term babies 40% & 20%

Increases life time risk of cancer by 8 times.



Oil and Gas Operations Leak, Vent and Flare methane into the air.

Methane is the principal component of natural gas.

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas responsible for more than a 25% of climate change.


NM is home to some of worst methane pollution in the US.

Methane escapes from wells in the Permian Basin at a rate 3 times higher than the national average.



New Mexico and Methane

NM leaks more than than 1 million metric ton of methane into the air every year – the equivalent of the carbon produced by 22 coal fired power plants

A massive methane hotspot was discovered over the San Juan Basin by satellite, equivalent to the size of the state of Rhode Island



Volatile organic compounds are gases released alongside methane as the key ingredient of smog or ozone

Benzene is of these gases which is a known carcinogen as well as others that cause serious neurological disorders.

Exposure of even 1 hour can cause cardiac arrythmias.



Adding insult to injury, the Trump administration has accelerated its campaign against environmental and health regulation.

Just this month, the EPA gutted federal methane regulations.

This follows three years of rolling back to environmental regulations.


The Good News: oil and gas developers have solutions at their disposal:

Infrared cameras to find and fix leaks

Companies can install state of the art technologies that emit little or no air emissions

Companies can develop gas capture plans before development so air and methane emissions are not an afterthought


Gov. Lujan Grisham: Climate change a core issue of her administration

As Gov. Lujan Grisham outlined in her 2019 Executive Order on Addressing Climate Change and Energy Waste Prevention, climate change creates new risks and exacerbates existing vulnerabilities in communities across New Mexico and presents growing challenges for human health and safety, quality of life and the rate of economic growth.

The state is committed to a coordinated, interagency strategy to support the 2015 Paris Agreement goals and achieve a statewide reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of at least 45 percent by 2030 as compared to 2005 levels.


NM Air Pollution and Methane Draft Rules

While we appreciate the hard work that NMED and EMNRD have done to date, the agencies must make critical changes to close loopholes and eliminate exemptions in their draft air pollution and methane rules.

Email comments to:

NMED draft rule

NMED Air Quality Bureau:


EMNRD draft rule

Oil Conservation Division:


Call to Action: what can you do???


Let candidates for office and your local, state and federal representatives know that combatting climate change is a critical issue for you and your family.

Follow the state process of regulating methane. Public Comment needed by Sept 16.

Call for comprehensive strategies to set state carbon limits and require significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in ALL SECTORS in NM.

Health Action

Recommendations to Federal Officials: COVID-19 Relief


At this time, it is important that everyone have access to healthcare that offers them the coverage that they need at an affordable rate. With congress meeting to discuss further actions for COVID, these are Health Action New Mexico’s recommendations for federal COVID relief.



  • Create a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) during the entirety of the pandemic period.  This will get more people enrolled especially as spikes and surges see even more people losing coverage.
  • Protect consumers for all Covid-19 related medical debt during the state of emergency and 90 days after should be consumer protected including a one year prohibition on collection, a one year-prohibition on credit reporting, a one year extension on appeal federal and state insurance appeal deadlines and a prohibition on interest related to these debts.  At this time, it is important that all people be provided the resources that they need to stay safe and healthy. The last thing they should worry about is medical bills, especially as the overall economy is on a downward trajectory. According to a study published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information, “​problems paying medical costs are associated with higher credit card debt, more calls from bill collectors, increased bankruptcy rates[1], and diminished access to care.” 
  • Invest $5 billion in state and local public health infrastructure. 
  • Improve prevention, identification, and treatment of Covid-19 among incarcerated people and those held in ICE detention centers, including staff and all employees by creating mandated Covid-19 prevention and treatment standards with federal accountability. Fund expanded screening and community providers with infectious disease expertise to provide treatment in these facilities. In New Mexico, federal detention and prison facilities have been continuous hotspots with hundreds of cases bringing ongoing community spread into their communities.  The state has donated their own testing equipment to encourage addressing the issue but has no jurisdiction. Investigations by advocacy groups have reported lack of use of masks, testing and social distancing in both ICE and federal prison facilities.
  • Withdraw the public charge rules. Immigrants must be considered in any pandemic response legislation. To slow the spread of the disease, we must make sure that everyone is covered and no one feels afraid to access public services. Immigrants are often front line workers in our New Mexico economy - as health care workers, home health aides, critical members of the food change and other essential services. Denying citizenship and residency extensions to people who use public services and clinics creates a disincentive to get tested and ultimately makes stopping the spread of the virus more difficult. As a state with a large immigrant population, New Mexico is at an increased risk if these benefits are not provided.


[1] NCBI, “Health Insurance Status, Medical Debt, and Their Impact on Access to Care in Arizona.”

Health Action

Racism is a Public Health Issue

Racism is a public health issue.

Health Action New Mexico’s mission is to bring together organizations and consumers to influence policy that affects the health of all people living in New Mexico; this organization recognizes that racism and systems that perpetuate racism constitute a public health issue. Now more than ever, we hope to lend our voice to spread awareness of the health ramifications of racism and the ill effect it has on our state and our country. For this blog, we will be focusing on racism toward Black Americans specifically in light of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Black Americans have poorer health and a shorter lifespan compared to white Americans.

Black people are disadvantaged in nearly every aspect of health equity in our country. They have a higher mortality rate than any other racial or ethnic group for eight of the top ten causes of death in the United States. According to, black men have a lower life expectancy at birth than their white counterparts. Even though life expectancy has improved over the last century, black men are still expected to live to the age of 72.2, but their white counterparts are expected to live to 76.61. According to the Center for American Process, black people in this country have higher rates of diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease than other groups. Black children have a 500% higher death rate from asthma compared with white children2, for example, in 2017, 12.6% of Black American children had asthma compared to 7.7% of non-Hispanic white children. It is evident that the overall health of every demographic of the Black American community is suffering: 

  • 13.8% of Black Americans reported having fair or poor health compared with 8.3% of non-Hispanic whites 

  • 80% of Black American women are overweight or obese compared to 64.8% of non-Hispanic white women 

  • 42% of Black American adults over age 20 suffer from hypertension compared with 28.7% of non-Hispanic white adults3 

  • Black people are almost two times as likely to have diabetes compared to non-Hispanic Whites 

  • Cancer rates among Blacks are 10% higher than those for white Americans  

  • Blacks are six times more likely than whites to be homicide victims 

  • Blacks account for nearly half of new HIV infections, but less than a quarter of the total population 

  • Blacks make up a third of patients receiving kidney dialysis

Black women face even more challenges.  Even in states with the lowest PRMRs (pregnancy-related mortality ratio) and among women with higher levels of education, black women are disadvantaged. The PRMR for black women with at least a college degree was 5.2 times that of their white counterparts. Such disparity in pregnancy- related death for women of color is not merely due to lack of education or poverty. Non-Hispanic black experienced higher PRMRs (40.8) than all other racial/ethnic populations with the exception of non-Hispanic AI/AN (American Indian/Alaskan Native) women. This was 3.2 times higher than the PRMR for white women – and the gap widened among older age groups.  For women over the age of 30, PRMR for black women was about four times higher than it was for white women. Disparities were persistent and did not change significantly between 2007-2008 and 2015-2016. See below a graph for pregnancy related mortality rates amongst minority women, and notice the large disadvantage for black women. 


The following graphic expands more on the health disparities in the black population in this country4.


According to Michael Geruso of SpringerLink, “For males, 80% of the black-white gap in life expectancy at age 1 can be accounted for by differences in socioeconomic and demographic characteristics. For females, 70% percent of the gap is accounted for. Labor force participation, occupation, and (among women only) marital status have almost no additional power to explain the black-white disparity in life expectancy after precise measures for income and education are controlled for”5. See below for a visual representing the difference in life expectancy between white and black women/ men.

These health issues are drastic, but black citizens also face disparities when seeking coverage to care for such issues. In 2017, 10.6% of Black Amercians were uninsured compared with 5.9% of non-hispanic whites3. Even if Black Americans are able to enroll in medicare, the last 6 months of life are still $7,100 more expensive to the Medicare system for black people and $6,100 more expensive for Hispanics than white, according to a study by the University of Michigan. And despite that, the National Academy of Medicine found “racial and ethnic minorities receive lower-quality health care than white people—even when insurance status, income, age, and severity of conditions are comparable.” By lower-quality health care, NAM means inferior care black patients receive by their physicians.


Even outside health care disparities, black citizens are also more likely to be the victim of violence, more specifically, police brutality. Black people have been 28% of those killed by police since 2013 despite being only 13% of the population.  Out of this, 17% of black people were unarmed. Therefore, there is a clear disparity with a twofold increase in homicide, yet a much larger proportion of unarmed victims.

There is inadequate data, research, and statistics on law-enforcement agency homicide rates in this country. The Death in Custody Reporting Act was recently signed to mandate such data be reported, but it is still unclear on whether police departments actually comply, and if they do how long it takes them to collect, compile, and make the data public. The Mapping Police Violence Database only reports known police killings, and even if these numbers are non-encompassing, they are still shocking:

 97 percent of these killings occurred while a police officer was acting in a law enforcement capacity. Importantly, these data still do not include killings by vigilantes or security guards who are not off-duty police officers. There are police killings that are not reported and are not shown in the media, and there remains ample examples of violence that does not result in a death. Finally, see the graph below, which demonstrates that crime does not determine or provoke this violence7. We would like to point out that Albuquerque is on this chart.


The United States is the richest country in the world and considered a global leader in most respects.. However, minorities, particularly Black Americans, remain systemically disadvantaged. Here at Health Action New Mexico we believe that all people in New Mexico should have access to the resources that allow them to lead a healthy life, regardless of geographic location, language, ethnicity, race, citizenship, age, disability, sex and sexual orientation, gender and gender identity, or religion. We know that racism is a public health issue, and plan on supporting policy and legislation that will help dismantle white supremacy in this country. We are also planning on attending the It Can’t Wait March hosted by Black Lives Matter ABQ New Mexico to show our support for the movement and hand out water bottles to the marchers. The march will be Saturday July 18th from 6-10pm, starting at Santa Fe Plaza and continuing to the state capitol building. We hope to see you all there to stand in solidarity. 

Please reach out to

with any questions or policy suggestions.



2). The Center for American Process



5). Michael Geruso of SpringerLink





Health Action