Public Health New Mexico

KUNM's Public Health New Mexico reporting project provides in-depth, investigative and continuous coverage of public health in New Mexico, with an emphasis on poverty. For all articles and web exclusive content, go to 

Ed Williams

At a rural health center in Española, a doctor and a community health worker are huddled around a computer, taking notes.

On the screen is an array of squares. In one is a group of expert Albuquerque doctors specializing in addiction management, and in the others are rural medical teams from around the state.

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

We’ve all heard of suicide-prevention hotlines, and numbers folks can dial in an emergency. But what about a not-so-hotline for people looking to stave off a crisis before it happens? via CC

The White House has been calling for college campuses to better protect students from sexual assault. And last year a task force presented recommendations for what should change. But universities across the country may be struggling to keep up. We checked in on how the University of New Mexico is faring—and one way technology might help.

Arianna Sena / KUNM

People who’ve reported sexual assaults to the University of New Mexico have said lengthy investigations leave them in limbo for months while anxiety interferes with their studies. But UNM is making some changes to try to speed things up.

An App To Map Moles

Nov 9, 2015
Tim Lee of British Columbia Cancer Research Agency

  Melanoma is the most dangerous kind of skin cancer, accounting for 75 percent of all skin cancer deaths. And it affects people of all ages—especially folks in sunny New Mexico.

A researcher at the University of New Mexico’s Cancer Center helped develop a free app that aims to track any funny-looking moles on your body, so you can catch melanoma in its early stages. 

Flickr via CC

Sexual assault policies on campuses around the country are being scrutinized, and the Department of Justice has been looking at the University of New Mexico this year. Some UNM students say the university isn’t clear about when their sexual assault reports will remain confidential—and when they won’t.

Ed Williams

Some of the nurses at the University of New Mexico Hospital say they are understaffed, overworked and overlooked by the hospital’s management.

At a press conference in front of UNM Hospital in Albuquerque, nurse Lorie MacIver said the staffing problems have gotten so bad, it can be hard to give patients the care they need.

"One of a nurse’s greatest fears is that she’s so overwhelmed and so busy that she fails to notice something small, and then it gets worse. And I’ve seen nurses in break rooms crying," MacIver said.


A program that started in New Mexico is taking on the global shortage of child doctors.

Project ECHO uses video conferencing to mentor rural doctors in specialized medicine with experts in Albuquerque and elsewhere. Now, the project is teaming up with the world’s largest pediatric organization to bring healthcare to rural kids.


Generation Justice

Inmates and their relatives pay steep phone bills to keep in touch, and prison phone companies rake in billions. The Federal Communications Commission moved to cap those rates last week because it isn’t only the inmate who pays the price.

Rashad Mahmood-Public Health New Mexico

There is a problem with the groundwater in Albuquerque—a big problem. A plume of poisonous dry cleaning chemicals is flowing beneath the Sawmill and Wells Park neighborhoods, just north of downtown. The contamination stretches farther than the Kirtland Air Force Base jet fuel spill, and is much closer to the surface.

Get Your Flu Vaccine At A Drive-Thru

Oct 17, 2015
Allison Giron/KUNM

Influenza is the 8th leading cause of death in the United States, according to the CDC.

UNM Hospital provides free flu shots and even drive­-thru clinics to help minimize the spread of the virus. Drivers are able to pull into a parking lot and get in line. Medical student volunteers then walk to their cars with syringes and paperwork.

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

Untreated minor health concerns can grow into big, expensive ailments, maybe even fatal illnesses. That’s true for people who are in jail, too. Many of the state’s jails charge inmates copays for their medical care, but some say the fees deter inmates from seeking the help they need before health problems get out of control. 

Rashad Mahmood-Public Health New Mexico

A plume of toxic dry cleaning chemicals has been moving through Albuquerque's groundwater for at least two decades. At 35 feet deep and at least a mile and a half long, it's closer to the surface and covers more distance than the Kirtland Air Force Base jet fuel spill. And the chemicals in the groundwater, called TCE and PCE, cause cancer, birth defects and neurological problems. 

UNM To House Population Health College

Oct 3, 2015
suny_cortland via Flickr / Creative Commons License


New Mexico will be home to the nation's first population health doctoral program. The new program was inspired by the Affordable Care Act to help grow the workforce for our healthcare system. The college will feature a multi-disciplinary degree program that aims to train the students who will provide healthcare services. 

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

FARMINGTON, N.M.—Nationwide, the number of people who die in jail is rising. Here in New Mexico, three deaths in three months in San Juan County’s lockup caught the attention of attorneys and the local newspaper

Ed Williams

Finding employment can be a challenge for anyone entering the job market. For people with disabilities, those challenges can be even greater—the unemployment rate for that group is twice that of the overall population.

Ed Williams

When state environment workers were taking groundwater samples in downtown Albuquerque back in the 1990s, they discovered a large plume of a solvent called trichloroethylene, or TCE—a toxic chemical that causes cancer and birth defects—just 35 feet below the ground. 

Grandparents Filling The Family Void

Sep 18, 2015
FeeLoona via Pixabay / Creative Commons License

In New Mexico lots of grandparents raise their grandkids – more than 70,000 children under the age of 18 here live with family other than their parents.

There are fewer young people trying to commit suicide in New Mexico, according to the state Department of Health. Statewide rates of attempted suicide among school kids dropped 35 percent between 2003 and 2013.

Elizabeth McKenzie

Irrigation water still isn’t flowing from the San Juan River to some farms on the Navajo Nation. Two chapters voted to keep ditches shut off after the Gold King Mine spill last month. But Navajo folks around the state are reaching out to help farmers and ranchers there. 

Andrew AIRNM via flickr


A coalition of businesses in New Mexico and Arizona are suing the Environmental Protection Agency over a recent rule extending clean water protections across the country. 

i_spec via Compfight CC

An audit released today found weaknesses and deficiencies when it comes to funding requirements for special education. 

@BeWellNM on Twitter

This week Blue Cross Blue Shield announced it will be pulling out of the state health insurance exchange in January. President Kurt Shipley says the company lost over $19 million in New Mexico this year and is leaving, because state officials denied its request for a 51 percent rate increase.  

Ed Williams

New Mexico has a nursing problem. In recent years some hospitals have had to close beds because there weren’t enough nurses to staff them. And as more people enroll in health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act, the need for nurses is growing even faster.

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

UPDATE 8/25 at 12:30 p.m.: President Russell Begaye is awaiting soil and sediment samples from the Navajo Nation's Environmental Protection Agency before deciding whether to remove restrictions on irrigation from the San Juan River, according to spokesperson Mihio Manus. Begaye, a farmer himself who's relied on the river, met with farmers in Shiprock on Thursday, Aug. 20. 


malglam via CC

KUNM Call In Show 8/27 8a

Advocates around the state are working to help new moms who want to breastfeed make it happen. They’re embarking on campaigns to normalize breastfeeding and inform women of their rights at work.

Are hospitals helping women start the process? Are New Mexico employers offering their workers clean, private spaces to pump milk? Did you or anyone you know ever face disapproval or judgment for nursing in public? Are businesses friendly to breastfeeding moms?

Ed Williams

The Obama Administration recently proposed new standards that would reduce methane emissions from natural gas operations across the country, and environmental advocates say the new rules could have some health benefits for people living near gas wells.

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

It’s been nearly two weeks since the Gold King Mine spill caused the shut down of San Juan River irrigation to farms on the Navajo Nation. Emergency stopgap measures aren’t quite panning out. 

Bernalillo County

Bernalillo County has extended the public comment period for a controversial road project in an industrial area south of Albuquerque. 

The $19 million Sunport Blvd. extension project is intended to make commuting easier and bring more business development to the South Valley - that’s according to Bernalillo County. But people in a nearby neighborhood say they didn’t have a seat at the table while the plans were being made.

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

Update Aug. 18, 11:30 a.m.: The EPA said the water for the Navajo Nation came from nearby Bloomfield and met state and federal quality standards. The trucks came from a division of an Aztec, N.M.-based company, Triple S Trucking, that moves non-potable water. The company also hauls fluids to and from oil fields. KUNM awaits comment from Triple S.