Last year marked Con Alma Health Foundation’s 20th anniversary. For two decades, Con Alma has had the privilege of supporting nonprofits and changemakers that share our goal of advancing health equity in New Mexico. We were founded in 2001 through a $20 million sale of Blue Cross Blue Shield New Mexico as well as a partnership with the Auxiliary of the Los Alamos Medical Center (known as the Northern New Mexico Health Grants Group). We have invested more than $15 million toward improving health in our state through grantmaking, sponsorships and contributions, community collaboratives, serving the role of convener, leveraging local and national resources, and serving as a thought leader. We exist because of the founders, visionary community volunteers, and nonprofit leaders who help shape and strengthen our work and overall impact.
As we move into this new decade and look ahead to the next 20 years, this is the ideal time for us to critically examine Con Alma’s role in strategically responding to the most pressing health needs of our diverse communities in New Mexico. For decades, we have witnessed the impact of historical, structural, and systemic racism within our communities – creating significant health disparities, injustices, and poor health outcomes. The health inequities that exist in New Mexico (and elsewhere) were further illuminated almost immediately at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. With the amplified attention on public health, the influx of federal and state dollars and other aid, and increased understanding of health inequities and social injustices – we will intentionally seize this moment to reflect, and transform how we work internally, deepen our relationships with community partners and peer funders, and shift from responsive philanthropy to a more strategic approach.
In partnership with our Board of Trustees and Community Advisory Committee, our staff will spend much of 2022 developing a new strategic plan and critically examining our own practices, policies, and systems. I anticipate parts of this experience will feel uncomfortable; but I know we must look at our reflection in the mirror to ensure we’re not further perpetuating existing disparities and inequities (or creating new ones). I recently heard someone say, “Philanthropy isn’t a sprint or a marathon. It’s actually a relay.” And that’s how I’m approaching the strategic planning process. Just like every other organization, we are on our own learning journey. Some of us may be further ahead in our understanding than others, some may be ready to take the baton and run for miles, and some of us may need additional time, education, or information to envision where Con Alma is headed. My commitment to you is that we will report back on our progress, share and discuss the approved plan and vision, and we will continue to earn the community’s trust as we work together to make sure every New Mexican has the opportunity to live a healthy and full life.
We wish you a healthy and productive new year. And we thank you for believing in us since inception through this 20-year milestone.
Denise E. Herrera, PhD, MCHES
Con Alma Health Foundation
Office: 505-438-0776 x3
denise (at) conalma.org