First Born Program Founder Supports New Families

(Santa Fé) - This year's Hero of Health is Vicki Johnson, the creator of a home-visiting, educational program for first-time parents that's been replicated across New Mexico, announced Dolores E. Roybal, Con Alma Health Foundation's executive director. This is the sixth year Con Alma, the state's only private foundation dedicated solely to health, has recognized a person who makes an incredible contribution to improve the health of New Mexicans.

"We are honored to recognize people who truly make a difference in our state," Roybal said. "Vicki has established a sustainable program that builds healthy families throughout New Mexico. We appreciate her devotion to supporting the wellbeing of our families."

Con Alma chose Johnson among 17 nominees. Nominees included state legislators, volunteers, nonprofit directors and advocates for the homeless, cancer services, health-care access and minority populations.

In honor of this year's hero, Con Alma is providing a $1,000 donation to the First Born Program of Grant County, the original New Mexico program site. "With over 70 years of home visiting experience, this staff has provided mentoring and training for many of the other First Born Programs," Johnson said.

Johnson established First Born in Grant County in 1997 to nurture strong relationships between families and their newborns through free, weekly home visits and customized curriculum to first-time parents and children from birth to three. There are 12 First Born programs in New Mexico.

Johnson described First Born's work as challenging, important and rewarding. "Nothing can compete with making a positive and life-long impact on the lives of children. I am grateful to the Con Alma Health Foundation for honoring work that enhances the lives of children in New Mexico," she said.

Anna Maria Garcia, First Born program director at LANL Foundation, nominated Johnson as the visionary creator of First Born. In her nomination, Garcia said the program increases prenatal care, understanding of infant development, regular well baby checks and bonding with parents. It also reduces substance use and links families with community and medical resources.

"Vicki worked with the LANL Foundation to replicate the program and is an advocate for healthier babies, families and communities," Garcia said.

Past heroes include Juliana Anastasoff of University of New Mexico, Rebecca Palacio of New Mexico State University, Chuck Howe of National Veterans Wellness and Healing Center, and Kristine Suozzi of New Mexico Health Equity Working Group. Con Alma will honor Johnson at its annual grantee recognition event on Nov. 21.
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Con Alma Health Foundation seeks to improve people's health status and access to health care services, and advocates for health policies to address the unmet health needs of New Mexico's culturally and demographically diverse population. Con Alma supports and partners with organizations to improve health in New Mexico. Visit www.conalma.org.

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