A woman gets her teeth cleaned at the dentist.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Award for Health Equity celebrates individuals who have changed systems and policies at a local level to increase the chance that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to live the healthiest life possible. 

The program, which is coming to a close this year, supported national membership organizations from public health, healthcare, social justice, civic leadership, community development, education, planning, and philanthropy in recognition of their important work in the field. Those organizations found and selected changemakers in their community who are improving wellbeing for the people they serve. 

Prize Criteria

RWJF funded nine national membership organizations, representing varied sectors, to administer the awards program over seven years (2016–2022). 

Organizations include:

AIDS United

Asian & Pacific Islander Caucus for Public Health

Community-Campus Partnerships for Health

Hispanics in Philanthropy

Leading Age

National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics

National Civic League

National Recreation and Park Association

Youth MOVE National

Each organization independently nominated individuals and selected an award recipient (one individual or a team of two) for work done within a two year period. 

Visit each organization’s site to learn about their nomination/application process.

For more information on the prize and nomination process, download the FAQ PDF.

2022 Health Equity Award Winners

2023 Award for Health Equity Winners collage

Celebrating the Winners

Join us in celebrating the winners of the 2022 RWJF Award for Health Equity. These individuals have successfully changed systems and local policies that help reduce health disparities in their communities to increase the chance for everyone to have a fair and just opportunity for health and wellbeing.

Shawn Fung-A-Ling

Shawn Fung-A-Ling, Deputy Director, I Am Human Foundation

Selected by AIDS United 

Building Understanding Between Providers and the LGBTQ Community

Shawn Fung-A-Ling, Deputy Director at the I Am Human Foundation, develops educational, outreach, corporate, and public health programs designed to ensure that trans and nonbinary people receive healthcare services and resources that others take for granted. Shawn has created effective measures that bridge the gaps in understanding between healthcare providers, nonprofit organizations, and the LGBTQIA+ community.  Learn more on YouTube.

Dr. Raynald Samoa

Dr. Raynald Samoa, Associate Clinical Professor, Department of Diabetes, Endocrinology, and Metabolism, City of Hope National Medical Center 

Selected by the Asian & Pacific Islander Caucus for Public Health

Disaggregating Data to Reveal Real Needs 

Dr. Raynald Samoa actively engages researchers, physicians, public health experts, elected officials, and community advocates charged with serving and protecting Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (NHPI) communities with the goal of achieving health equity. His efforts focus on using disaggregated data and providing educational platforms for NHPI medical providers and community advocates to increase resources and develop effective policies for the NHPI communities who, without these crucial elements, are often invisible and neglected by the health system. Learn more on YouTube.

Zea Malawa and Anu Manchikanti

Dr. Zea Malawa, Director, Expecting Justice
Dr. Anu Manchikanti Gomez, Associate Professor and Director, Sexual Health and Reproductive Equity Program, School of Social Welfare, University of California, Berkeley 

Selected by Community-Campus Partnerships for Health

Lessening Economic Stress to Support Healthy Births 

The Abundant Birth Project provides mothers a buffer against the stresses associated with racialized economic insecurity that contribute to adverse birth outcomes. Using a community-driven design approach, Drs. Zea Malawa and Anu Gomez co-led the coalition that brought this innovative initiative to life. Through an approach that supports the dignity, capability, and autonomy of expectant mothers, the program offers an unconditional income supplement that mothers can use to address their self-identified needs, an effective strategy in promoting healthy births.  Learn more on YouTube.

Lorena Quiroz

Lorena Quiroz, Founder and Executive Director, Immigrant Alliance for Justice and Equity

Selected by Hispanics in Philanthropy

Addressing Challenges Impacting Immigrant Workers in Mississippi

Lorena Quiroz is a longtime health advocate, organizer, interpreter, and doula who created the Immigrant Alliance for Justice and Equity (IAJE), an organization building an immigrant-led social-economic movement in Mississippi. She works at the grassroots to amplify the voices of multi-racial, intergenerational immigrant communities throughout the state and to meet the urgent needs of children and families. Learn more on YouTube.

Rhonda Breland-Gil

Rhonda Breland-Gil, Grants Manager, Wesley Woods Senior Living

Selected by Leading Age

Focusing on Mental Health to Improve Wellbeing for Older Adults 

Rhonda Breland-Gil suspected that unaddressed behavioral health issues, often due to adverse life events, were contributing to lower wellness scores among the residents of Branan Towers, a Wesley Woods Senior Living community. She challenged the assumption that these residents were not good candidates for psychotherapy and ushered in a program of on-site psychological services resulting in measurable improvements in resident wellbeing. Learn more on YouTube.

Nancy Lascheid

Nancy Lascheid, Co-Founder, Neighborhood Health Clinic

Selected by the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics

Providing a Safety Net for the Working Uninsured

Nancy Lascheid and her husband Dr. William P. Lascheid identified a need in Collier County when they retired. This need was medical care for lower income, working, uninsured adults through private philanthropy. With a mission to provide comprehensive healthcare with dignity and humanity for those with no other options, they founded Neighborhood Health Clinic in 1999, a free clinic with a volunteer base of 700 individuals donating their expertise, supported by fourteen full-time and four part-time paid staff. Learn more on YouTube.

Alma Stewart Allen

Alma Stewart Allen, President and Founder, Louisiana Center for Health Equity

Selected by the National Civic League

Improving Health Outcomes for Families from Under-Resourced Communities

Alma Stewart Allen is the founding President of the Louisiana Center for Health Equity (LCHE), addressing disparities in health and wellbeing attributed to structural, institutional, or social disadvantages across the state, and advancing their bold vision, LA40by2030, with a focus on women and children. In addition, Alma’s work has impacted hundreds of youth and households living in under-resourced communities through partnerships with more than twenty local, state, and community organizations. LCHE’S adolescent health work strives to curb youth violence through program and policy initiatives, advocating for behavioral health and education aimed at supporting the success of Louisiana’s youth. Learn more on YouTube.

Velma Bailey

Velma Bailey, Founder/CEO, Saint Louis Torchbearers 2 

Selected by the National Recreation and Park Association

Opening the World of Outdoor Wonder for Urban Youth 

Velma Bailey, a schoolteacher for 26 years and a community volunteer for most of her life, started Camp Sun Splash, a program of the grassroots non-profit Saint Louis Torchbearers 2. As a passionate advocate for inner city youth and developing future leaders, Velma opens doors to the wonders of the natural world for children with little experience of the outdoors, and for whom activities such as hiking, swimming, and environmental studies are life changing. Learn more on YouTube.

Elliott Hinkle

Elliott Orrin Hinkle, Principal and Founder, Unicorn Solutions LLC

Selected by Youth MOVE National

Creating Affirming and Safe Communities for LGBTQ+ Youth

Elliott Hinkle, principal at Unicorn Solutions, is a national advocate for the lives and futures of LGBTQ youth who are or have been in foster care. Elliott’s work focuses on research, policy, and practices that address the unmet needs of transgender youth and those impacted by child and youth-serving systems. Learn more on YouTube.

Past Health Equity Award Winners

Brenda Flowers, Founder and CEO, Rising Against All Odds

Based in DeLand, Florida, Rising Against All Odds name reflects Flowers' own life experiences. She works in the trenches to bring health and social services to hard-to-reach communities where many are living with HIV and/or AIDS while experiencing homelessness, mental illness, and substance-use disorders. Her work forges pathways to people, rather than hoping that those who don’t trust or know how to navigate the system seek treatment for themselves. Rising Against All Odds is an indispensable pillar of the city’s social and care services. Through a lens that centers on the needs of those most in need, Brenda’s focus is that of system change.

Dr. Joyce R. Javier, Filipino Family Health Initiative 

Dr. Joyce Javier addresses the mental health of Filipino youth, who disproportionally experience serious and fatal mental health problems within a community where mental illness is highly stigmatized. Javier believes that intervening early can help Filipino families and young people thrive through adolescence and into adulthood. With the goal of reducing mental health disparities among Filipino youth, she spearheaded the Filipino Family Health Initiative (FFHI), a nationally recognized program. FFHI delivers the Incredible Years, a program directed to Filipino immigrant families as a prevention tool for the development of mental health problems in adolescents. Informed by community-based participatory research, Javier implements systems change approaches to the mental health issues that plague young people in the Filipino community.

Javier Alegre and Dr. Teresa Molina, Latino Behavioral Health Service

Dr. Teresa Molina and Javier Alegre are fundamentally re-engineering mental health services for the culturally and linguistically diverse Latino community in Salt Lake County, Utah. Their work shifts the focus on mental illness to a holistic concern for the individual, family and community. The Latino Behavioral Health Services designs culturally responsive mental health services within a community-based context that connects people to resources for housing, employment, citizenship, and nutrition, among so many other needed offerings. Collaboration is central to their work of systems change. Latino Behavioral Health Partnership and Services work in collaboration with multiple institutions and organizations. Among them are the University of Utah Health, Salt Lake County, University Neighborhood Partners, the University of Utah, the state, cities, and many other local community organizations. Through the lens of social and economic justice, they are shifting the mental health model in Utah in significant ways, undertaking the work of systems change to affect mental health outcomes in culturally and linguistically diverse communities

Susan Rubio Rivera, MUJER, Mujeres Unidas en Justicia, Educacion, y Reforma

Susan Rubio Rivera is shifting approaches to services for those who experience domestic and sexual violence with the goal to help victims become survivors and ultimately thrive. Susan has a 27-year track record as a leader in health equity by advocating for domestic violence and sexual violence survivors and their families. MUJER, Mujeres Unidas en Justicia, Educacion, y Reforma is a one-stop domestic violence and sexual assault center that offers a holistic approach to healing and protecting the safety and wellbeing of victims of domestic and sexual violence. Serving predominantly Hispanic lower-income residents, MUJER brings culturally aligned services to Miami-Dade County and the rural and agricultural communities across South Florida. MUJER empowers individuals through advocacy and access to information on how to report sexual or domestic violence and seek protection. MUJER helps victims become survivors and thrive despite the traumatic effects of abuse. MUJER’s wide-ranging efforts include individual and family counseling, therapy, advocacy and emotional support; legal services and immigration services for battered immigrants; crisis counseling, a 24/7 helpline; and victim’s compensation application filings, among other services. This client-centric full-scope approach to supporting survivors of domestic and sexual violence is a model of systems change to advance health equity.

Erica Thrash-Sall, Executive Director, Presbyterian Villages of Michigan-McFarlan Villages

With the mission to help adults live independently as long as possible, Erica Thrash-Sall's work is grounded in the work of systems change. Erica, Executive Director, Presbyterian Villages of Michigan-McFarlan Villages, has developed a hub of support for older adults with limited resources through comprehensive affordable housing services centered on dignity, autonomy, and wellness and psychological resilience. Adamant that people aging in poverty cannot afford to neglect their health, McFarlan Villages in Flint, Michigan, focuses on helping residents manage chronic conditions like diabetes with the understanding that catastrophic outcomes for these conditions are not inevitable. Erica has created a continuum of care to maximize the quality of life for residents aging in poverty with significant physical and behavioral health needs.

Ilana Steinhauer, Executive Director, Volunteers in Medicine, Berkshires

Ilana Steinhauer is the Executive Director of Volunteers in Medicine (VIM) Berkshires, a free clinic in which 80 percent of the 1,300 patients are from Latin American and Brazil. Steinhauer and VIM Berkshires’ model of healthcare focuses on clinical care and the social determinants that are fundamental to health. Volunteers in Medicine Berkshires has a small paid staff and over 70 volunteer health care providers and 100 volunteer interpreters, drivers, and other support personnel. The clinic’s services address language barriers and other circumstances experienced by immigrants that impede their visiting the clinic, seeing specialists, and complying with medical instructions. The clinic’s success is demonstrated by a steadily growing patient base and an increasing number of visits, and by the fact that there have been no patient hospitalizations, deaths, or housing evictions during the pandemic. Ilana and VIM Berkshires are pioneering an equity-based healthcare model designed to drive better outcomes and give clients equal opportunity to achieve good health.

Melissa Robinson, President, Black Health Care Coalition 

Melissa Robinson, President, Black Health Care Coalition (BHCC), is focused on improving birth outcomes for Black and poor infants through an innovative community approach that builds awareness, increases prenatal care, and educates and empowers mothers, fathers, and families. The BHCC HOME conducts Community Baby Showers with great effect in improving healthy birth rates and reducing infant mortality. This holistic community-based, case-management approach addresses all of the social determinants of health. Based in Kansas City, Missouri, the mission of the BHCC is to eliminate health disparities through advocacy, access to care and health promotion activities. As a champion for health equity and a strong advocate for the inclusion of people most impacted, Melissa works to change systems by centering Black experiences in the design of health solutions. Acting with the urgency of now to address health inequities, Melissa works to re-establish National Black Health Week throughout the United States.

Emilie Harmeyer, Program Director, ShreveCorps AmeriCorps Program at Shreveport Green

An estimated 16,000 children in Caddo Parish, Louisiana are food insecure, and Emilie Harmeyer, Program Director of the ShreveCorps AmeriCorps Program at Shreveport Green is confronting the issue of food deserts through groundbreaking approaches to community gardens, nutrition education and community engagement. Emilie’s efforts has resulted in the creation and revitalization of 23 community gardens, the dissemination of a comprehensive nutrition and gardening curriculum to thousands of children, and introduction of innovative ways to make fresh fruits and vegetables accessible to everyone in Shreveport. Shreveport Green’s Mobile Market program, a mini farmers’ market, serves an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 food insecure people living in Shreveport’s food deserts. The mini markets have cultivated partnerships with more than forty community organizations from local restaurants to civics groups to eldercare and healthcare providers to bring fresh produce to the people of Shreveport’s food deserts. Since 2016, ShreveCorps has served more than 600 children annually.  Through her leadership, Shreveport Green is systematically diminishing the inequities perpetuated by food deserts.

Anagha Talluri and Sanjana Buddi, Pure Youth Femme 

Anagha Talluri and Sanjana Buddi, through the organization they lead called Pure Youth Femme (Pure Charity - Youth - PUREFemme) are addressing the stigma of menstruation and eliminating the struggle of period poverty—a consequential issue for girls and women in the U.S. and worldwide. Girls and women who do not have access to affordable and effective menstrual products, hygiene education or safe sanitation facilities are experiencing “period poverty." Menstrual products are costly in the U.S., which creates affordability issues for teens and can contribute to missed time in class. Pure Youth Femme works to dismantle social stigmas and taboos, provide menstrual hygiene products to students in impoverished schools, empower young women, provide menstrual hygiene products, and stop the devaluing of the biological process of menstruation. They work for equality of access to menstrual supplies and sponsor initiatives to provide water tanks, sinks, toilets, etc. Anagha and Sanjana have taken on a serious issue steeped in centuries of misunderstanding, layers of misinformation and historical and present-day inequities. They are working to change a deeply ingrained system of health inequity that limits the full potential of girls and women and society at large.

D. Rashaan Gilmore, Founder and President, BlaqOut

BlaqOut, in Kansas City, Mo., envisions “a community where Black queer and trans people are connected and supported, have access to safe spaces and sufficient resources to help them thrive.” BlaqOut conducted the Vision 2020 Study, a community health needs assessment, gathering data on health conditions and Social Determinants of Health. Rashaan then created a model of care tailored to Black LGBTQ people, combining health care (including mental health), PrEP, and reentry to care. Rashaan is dedicated to organizational sustainability and community autonomy. “We got this. We are the change agents. We know what it’s going to take.” Watch his video on addressing health issues through community empowerment.

Susy Molano, Executive Director, Oregon Health Care Interpreters Association

In her work at the Portland Shriners Hospitals for Children, Molano came to understand how vulnerable populations suffer if they are not able to communicate properly. The Oregon Health Care Interpreters Association (OHCIA) is working with the state legislature to create an interpreting licensing board, ensuring that all health care interpreters, interpreter agencies, and health care providers are held to statutory standards and receive the support they need. OHCIA offers trainings in which experienced interpreters teach trainees from a variety of language groups in Oregon, so that students can obtain and keep state accreditation. This program has delivered long-term value for patients, interpreters, the profession, and the community. Watch her video on how healthcare interpreters are improving health outcomes.

Te Jay McGrath, TAY Program Coordinator, City of Pasadina

As the Transitional Age Youth (TAY) Program Coordinator for the City of Pasadena, McGrath works to connect young people experiencing homelessness to community support, including service providers and youth peer support. His strategies include outreach through events for Pride Week and National Coming Out Day, and providing resources like mobile HIV testing, flu shots, groceries, and access to a mobile shower. The program has a team of ten working with homeless teenagers, bringing them hygiene kits and information on COVID-19, and serving food every day from Pasadena restaurants. This approach has helped to keep restaurants in business and supported the local economy. Watch McGrath's video about taking a collaborative approach to improve the lives of youth.

Maurice Lee, Founder and President, Arizona Safety Net

Arizona Safety Net, founded by Maurice Lee in 2016, is a network of more than 40 primary care clinics that work to better serve Arizona’s uninsured through collaboration, quality improvement, and better access to care. Lee created a referral system that gives primary care clinics that refer the uninsured access to over 20 specialty services through a simple referral form. He recruited physicians in medical specialties that were under-resourced for the uninsured. In gaining broader access to affordable, quality health care for the uninsured, his work represents systems change in the service of health equity. Watch his video on constructing a safety net for Arizona's uninsured.

Ilima Ho-Lastimosa and Jane Chung-Do

Ilima Ho-Lastimosa—Community Coordinator, Waimānalo Learning CenterKe Kula Nui O Waimānalo; and Jane Chung-Do—Associate Professor, Office of Public Health Studies, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. Founded in 2017 by Ho-Lastimosa, a community leader and Native Hawaiian cultural practitioner, and Chung-Do, a Public Health professor and researcher, the Waimānalo Pono Research Hui (WPRH) is a partnership composed of over 50 academic researchers and community members working with the Native Hawaiian community of Waimānalo, on the island of O’ahu. By centering the voices and knowledge of the community, WPRH promotes local empowerment and self-determination. Ho-Lastimosa and Chung-Do embrace the Native Hawaiian view of health and wellness and work to achieve health equity through projects advancing culturally based education, food, and nutrition, and health of the land and ocean. Watch their video on rebalancing the power and ownership of community-academic research.

Linda Coleman, Vice President of Residen Services, Human Good

HumanGood is one of the largest nonprofit senior living providers in the country. Coleman partnered with San Francisco State University to bring nursing students to HumanGood affordable housing communities to conduct biometric screenings. She forged other partnerships with health insurers to reserve a number of apartments for older adults who are dual-eligible for Medicare and Medicaid; and to provide Health Care Navigators to HumanGood communities to educate residents about healthy lifestyles, support compliance with care plans, and help residents with medical appointments. These arrangements advanced health equity, enhanced wellness, and supported residents’ independence. Watch her video on integrating affordable housing and health to advance health equity.

Tsu-Yin Wu, Director, Eastern Michigan University School of Nursing PhD Program and Center for Health Disparities Innovations and Studies

Over the course of a 20-year career, Wu, Professor and Director, Eastern Michigan University School of Nursing PhD Program & Center for Health Disparities Innovations and Studies, has worked to document and remediate health care disparities, focusing on access to quality care, health care education, and community engagement. Her research work, its implementation through organizations such as the Healthy Asian Americans Project (HAAP), and her clinical advocacy in creating interdisciplinary, culturally competent interventions have reduced disparities in the treatment of various cancers, chronic diseases, mental health issues, and lead poisoning among underserved Asian American communities in Michigan. In building up community health resources, leadership, and education, Wu’s work has contributed to advancing health equity in these communities and in the U.S.

Carol Zernial and Daryl D. Quarles

In a public/private partnership brokered by Zernial, an acclaimed gerontologist and Executive Director of the WellMed Charitable Foundation (WCF), and Quarles, the Senior Program Division Service Area Manager at the Dallas Park and Recreation Department (DPRD), WellMed spent $2.1 million developing WellMed Charitable Foundation Senior Activity Center, in the repurposed Red Bird Mall. DPRD provides staff and programming at a cost of $250,000 per year and $150,000 in annual scholarships to subsidize seniors’ memberships, matching an annual grant from WCF. There is an adjacent WellMed for-profit primary care clinic. The clinic and the senior center together provide a holistic approach to seniors’ physical, social, and mental health. Watch their video on inspiring good health behaviors in older adults.

Alex Sanchez, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Homies Unidos, Inc.

An expert on violence prevention, gang culture, and youth criminalization, Alex Sanchez advocates for comprehensive intervention strategies, immigration reform, criminal justice reform, and Black-Brown unity. He promotes racial tolerance and cultural understanding in the service of violence prevention. Homies Unidos teaches life skills to at-risk Central American youth; distributes food; organizes cultural events; and engages in community peacebuilding and organizing, including voter registration. In developing inter-community trust while working to meet the basic needs of young people and their families, Sanchez is helping to build a new model of community strength and health equity. Watch his video on empowering youth to create community peace.

Arianna Innuritegui-Lint of Arianna’s Center

Arianna Innuritegui-Lint founded Arianna’s Center to empower the trans community in South Florida. The Center is one of the few organizations in the state that is led by and anchored within the transgender community. It offers programs and services tailored to its clients' needs such as helping clients access anti-HIV medication, study for their GED, or find emergency housing after being released from jail or a detention center. Through her work, Lint, also a transgender woman, has worked to educate institutions and individuals on trans health issues and break the cycle of discrimination and social stigma experienced by transgender people.

Dr. Shreya Kangovi of Penn Center for Community Health Workers and IMPaCT 

As a primary care doctor and health policy researcher, Dr. Shreya Kangovi works to stem the tide of chronic disease impacting residents of West and Southwest Philadelphia. Kangovi developed IMPaCT, a standardized, scalable community health worker program that relies on trusted laypeople to help community members improve their health and well-being. IMPaCT has proven in three randomized controlled trials to improve chronic disease control, primary care access, mental health and quality of care while reducing hospital admissions in the greater Philadelphia region. The program is now the most widely disseminated community health worker program in the country.

Dr. Mary Wirshup, Community Volunteers of Medicine

Many low-income residents in Chester County, Pennsylvania face complex barriers to good health. Dr. Mary Wirshup has been instrumental in helping Community Volunteers in Medicine address these barriers, especially for patients suffering from chronic disease. From championing a text message-based system to help remind patients about upcoming appointments, to implementing a glucose monitoring program to help diabetic patients see how small changes in nutrition and activity level can make impactful changes on their health, to working with specialists to help find housing for homeless patients, Wirshup’s efforts have helped bring healthcare, hope and healing to uninsured working adults and their families.

Edward Tepporn, Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation

Edward Tepporn focuses on the specific health equity challenges experienced by Asian and Pacific Islanders in the United States. Tepporn developed the Health Rising Leadership Institute, a fellowship program that helps community activists tell authentic stories to challenge the “model minority” idea and other harmful stereotypes that can lead to health inequities in the Asian community. After completing the fellowship program, participants take on increased leadership roles in their organizations or become more involved in existing community partnerships―working for change that advances health equity in their communities.

Jose Che-Che Turrubiartez of the LGBTQ+ and Allies Commons Space

Jose Che-Che Turrubiartez is a champion for youth who has made a commitment to work for true systems change in the area of sexual and reproductive health. As a college student, Turrubiartez helped bring HIV testing on campus and offer sexual health resources that were not previously available to students. Turrubiartez was also a spokesperson for the CDC’s Spanish-speaking “Haciendolo” campaign to raise awareness for HIV testing across the nation. While once a youth advocate, Turrubiartez is now ensuring the next generation of youth leaders have their voices heard.

Maria Gomez

Founded more than 30 years ago, Mary’s Center provides medical, social, and education services to over 50,000 individuals in the Washington, D.C area. Although a health care provider, Maria Gomez, the clinic’s founder, understands that there’s more to health than health care. Gomez’s experience immigrating from Columbia with her mother at age 13, led her to ensure that Mary's Center asks patients about their neighborhood, jobs, housing, education, and the well-being of family members so that they can address multiple social determinants of health at once. This approach has not only helped improve health outcomes for the Latino and immigrant families they serve but has drawn attention to the health care rights of vulnerable populations. Read her July 2021 RWJF Culture of Health blog post on five lessons to break down barriers to the COVID-19 vaccine.

Michael Klein and Gabriel Sanders of Kavod Senior Life

In the greater Denver area, Michael Klein and Gabriel Sanders are helping reduce social isolation and creating opportunities for healthy living for low-income seniors through the Kavod in Community program. Kavod is a Hebrew word meaning “honor and respect.” This respect-centered value is the compass Klein and Sanders use to bring social-emotional, educational and health information programs for seniors to local synagogues and senior sites within the Denver Housing Authority. With Kavod in Community, Klein and Sanders engineered systems change, enhancing health and quality of life for low-income seniors through effective, inclusive, equitable, and affordable programs.

Tina Fleming and Lindsey Jorstad of Gwinnett County Government

Tina Fleming and Lindsey Jorstad have been driving forces behind the Gwinnett County, Georgia’s commitment to health equity through the Live Healthy Gwinnett initiative. Rewriting the rules of who is a public health provider, Fleming and Jorstad kick-started several initiatives to make health and wellness accessible to all—from summer camp programs that promote physical activity and healthy eating to water safety programs to reduce aquatic-related emergencies and deaths. They also helped usher in large-scale system change, implementing the first set of health and wellness standards for a park and recreation agency in the state of Georgia.

Dr. Sarah Cusworth Walker of the University of Washington and Kevin Williams of Pierce County Juvenile Court

In Pierce County, Washington, Kevin Williams and Dr. Sarah Cusworth Walker are helping transform the county’s juvenile probation practices as a way to better engage youth of color. Williams, the county’s juvenile court probation manager, and Walker, a researcher at the University of Washington, shaped and instituted Opportunity Based Probation. This approach shifts probation’s emphasis from deterring misbehavior to incentivizing positive behavior change. As youth complete predetermined objectives specified in their case plan, rewards increase. At the end of supervision, youth are connected to community partners through employment or internship opportunities. The program is not only reducing youth recidivism and probation violations but also helping improve well-being for youth and their families.

Angela Bannerman Ankoma and Sharon Conard-Wells of the Sankofa Community Initiative

In one of the poorest neighborhoods in Providence, R.I., Angela Bannerman Ankoma and Sharon Conard-Wells are improving health and well-being for a large refugee and immigrant population by promoting a positive future through the Sankofa Community Initiative. Sankofa is a Ghanian word meaning “return to one’s roots,“ and through this program, Ankoma and Conard-Wells are tackling the root causes of health inequities through a unique urban agriculture project that integrates food production, economic development, and high-quality stable, affordable housing.

XinQi Dong of the Rutgers Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research

As a geriatrician and community-based researcher, Dr. XinQi Dong focuses on family violence, resilience, and mental health. Dong’s research has shown how much culture and tradition factor into the higher prevalence of psychological distress, social isolation, dementia, and cancer among older Chinese-Americans. His efforts to advance culturally relevant policies and practices to promote health and well-being for elderly in minority communities have changed how care is delivered and improved lives.

Suzanne Held and Alma McCormick of Messengers for Health

The Apsáalooke people are known for the strength of their clan system and families, and Messengers for Health (MFH) leverages these attributes to advance equity. Co-directed by Crow Nation tribal member Alma McCormick and Montana State University’s Suzanne Held, MFH works with community members, tribal health care providers, health centers, and others to bring health and wellness to the community with members of the community. Launched in 1996, it originally focused on culturally appropriate ways to increase cancer screening rates among Apsáalooke women. Today, this partnership fosters improvements in women’s health, men’s health, provider cultural competency, chronic disease self-management, resiliency and reduced rates of suicides.

Yolo Akili Robinson of the Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective

Yolo Akili Robinson founded the Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective (BEAM) to dismantle the systems that dehumanize black people and build capacity to help organizations better serve their communities. BEAM is a collective of advocates, yoga teachers, artists, therapists, lawyers, religious leaders, teachers and psychologists. Together, they work on a variety of projects designed to address inequities that influence health and well-being, including strengthening mental health, building wealth, improving women’s health, and building social and cultural connections. The program teaches skill building through role playing, active listening, and training at the intersection of race, gender, class and health.

Angela Settle of West Virginia Health Right

As CEO of West Virginia Health Right, Angela Settle has worked to stem high rates of tooth decay in a state with severe shortages of dental providers and other public health challenges brought on by the opioid epidemic. Settle, a nurse practitioner, uses a free mobile harm-reduction program and a mobile dental program to transform how low-income, uninsured and underinsured adults get care in isolated rural areas across the state.

Janeth Tapia of North Carolina Farmworkers Project in Benson, N.C.

Providing access to affordable, quality health care for a population that is often politically marginalized and isolated is a key component of the North Carolina Farm Workers’ Project. Outreach Coordinator Janeth Tapia works with partners across the region to connect nearly 3,000 farmworkers with health information and clinical care. Tapia educates health care providers about the hazards that farm workers face, and she helps farm workers take charge of and advocate for their own health. The program provides transportation and volunteer translators for medical visits, and it has worked for extended clinical hours so farmworkers can get care at night or on weekends.

Becky Tuttle of the Greater Wichita YMCA/Health & Wellness Coalition

Becky Tuttle has over 20 years of experience making the connections between people, organizations, and what it takes to bring about sustainable systems change and advance health equity--whether it’s controlling tobacco use, encouraging physical activity, or combating food deserts. As director of community development for the Greater Wichita YMCA, Tuttle has helped build healthy communities and form alliances among public health organizations, private businesses, municipal governments, and other sectors. For example, her work helped remove structural barriers to food distribution that disproportionately affected people in low-income neighborhoods.

Cante Waste Win Zephier of Young Women’s Group

Cante Waste Win means Good Hearted Woman in Lakota Sioux language. Even at 16, Zephier lives up to that name. Her work in urban native communities and on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation focuses on healing personal, cultural, intergenerational, and historical trauma to advance health equity. Pine Ridge has some of the highest suicide rates in the nation and high rates of sexual abuse. A sexual abuse survivor, Zephier volunteers at Lakota youth camps, where participants share their own trauma and experiences while reconnecting with traditional healing practices. She leads talking circles and builds relationships through stories, songs, arts, and connecting to elders.

Terry Spitznagel of the National Church Residences

Among seniors with a chronic illness, loneliness, falls, and depleted medication can trigger serious health crises. Traditional home services don’t often consider a patient’s broader needs. Home for Life considers the whole patient, addressing the small and not-so-small issues that cause re-hospitalizations and emergency room visits. Terry Spitznagel, who developed the program for the National Church Residences, says it helps seniors lead healthy lives and thrive, regardless of their location or socioeconomic background. A true systems-change innovation, it has improved health for vulnerable seniors in rural Chillicothe, Ohio, and it is expanding to other states.

Leah Alexander and Katina Beard of the Nashville Health Disparities Coalition

Katina Beard, CEO of the Matthew Walker Comprehensive Health Center, and Leah Alexander, assistant professor at Meharry Medical College, represent two of 31 partners making up the Nashville Health Disparities Coalition. The group–which includes nonprofit organizations, academic and government institutions, and faith-based and advocacy organizations–brings researchers together with the community to implement evidence-based public health programs. In just one such collaboration, Beard and Alexander developed an HIV education workshop, supported by a grant secured from the Tennessee Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities Elimination.

Reverend Gerald Brown of the United African American Ministerial Action Council, and Elizabeth Bustos of Be There San Diego

For many African Americans, the church is a sacred lifeline. The Southeastern San Diego Cardiac Disparities Project supports 6,400 mostly African American adults in a community with one of the highest incidences of heart disease and stroke that also faces all that comes with poverty. Elizabeth Bustos and the Reverend Gerald W. Brown are hoping to heal heart disease with the two systems that affect it, faith and health. The project offers guidance, tracks progress, builds trust and enables medical staff to interact with faith leaders. This affects physicians’ relationships with patients and the way a health system interacts with the community it serves.

Steven Crane of The Free Clinics–Henderson County Free Medical Clinic Inc.

As volunteer medical director for The Free Clinics, Dr. Steven Crane often looks for outliers. When he recognized that many low-income, uninsured patients were overusing hospital services and generating millions of dollars in uncompensated care, he found out why. Bridges to Health was launched to address the multiple challenges these patients faced: chronic illnesses, mental health issues, social isolation, and poverty. Bridges has transformed the lives of the most difficult-to-treat patients. It has reduced uncompensated hospital costs, improved health outcomes and strengthened social connections. Patients are now getting regular primary care, have found housing and employment, and are living healthier lives.

Rogene Gee Calvert of the Asian American Health Coalition

Rogene Gee Calvert is a co-founder of the Asian American Health Coalition (AAHC) of the Greater Houston Area, which established the HOPE Clinic to serve the uninsured, underinsured, those with limited English proficiency, and those with low incomes. The clinic—which serves more than 15,000 individuals in over 20 different languages in three locations—has also been active in voter registration, and its patient education efforts help eligible immigrants and refugees participate in the political process. Gee Calvert’s contributions to community empowerment were recognized with her appointment to the State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

Jacob Griffin of Griffin Ambitions Ltd.

Jacob Griffin fights for the rights of young people battling mental health and addiction. While attending Ball State University, Griffin noticed a gap in mental health services and formed a task force to better meet the demand. In 2016, he founded Griffin Ambitions, to build and expand on his experiences in Youth MOVE Indiana. Griffin Ambitions works to support the mental health needs of students in college, empower young people to advocate for prevention and treatment, and develop leaders for positive policy change. Griffin has brought his collaboration and policy-advocacy program to nearly a dozen campuses.

Monica Johnson of HEROES

Monica Johnson is the founder and executive director of Helping Everyone Receive Ongoing Effective Support (HEROES), a nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS and at-risk teens in the rural South. As an HIV-positive African-American herself, Johnson works to ease barriers like distance, extreme poverty, racism, and stigma. She takes a two-pronged approach: providing those with HIV/AIDS and those most at risk with the tools to advocate for themselves in a system rife with health inequities; and working with HIV prevention and care service providers and public educators to change that system.

Jae Maldonado of the Street Level Health Project

Jae Maldonado, past executive director of the Street Level Health Project in Oakland, California, brings a healing and empathetic approach to tackling barriers within immigrant communities. As a transmasculine Latinx, Maldonado dedicated himself to improving the well-being of underinsured, uninsured, and recently arrived immigrant populations of Alameda County. One initiative, the Safe and Secure Jobs Project, has supported hundreds of low-wage immigrant workers with direct services, while working to inform legislative stakeholders and local workforce development boards of the occupational and behavioral health needs of Northern Californian day laborers.

Sarah Schoeder and Kate West of Eaton Senior Communities

In 2015, Kate West and Sarah Schoeder decided to start offering free wellness coaching to low-income residents who typically lack access to such support. Fast forward to today, and their idea has surpassed their imagination. The program at Eaton has helped seniors comply with medication regimens and empowered them to set personal goals, better manage their health issues, and, thanks to a steady stream of young volunteers, strengthened inter-generational relationships. Residents report that their lives and health are improving with access to information and with encouragement to make use of available programs and services.

Patricia Solano of City of Riverside–Parks, Recreation and Community Services

As a community service leader for the Riverside parks and recreation system, Patricia Solano takes a long view of what it will take to keep all residents healthy. She and her team promote diet and exercise as the foundations of good health. She’s led multiple collaborations to achieve those goals, including partnering with Kaiser Permanente to provide swim lessons to 38,000 low-income kids, bringing healthy choices to public schools and after school programs, raising awareness about sugary beverages, and teaching healthy cooking to teens.

Mike Espel of St. Vincent de Paul Charitable Pharmacy

Cincinnati-based pharmacist Mike Espel started the St. Vincent de Paul Charitable Pharmacy in 2006 to increase access to medications for neighbors who could not afford them. Each client gets free medications and receives a unique health care plan, explaining how to take medications and how to improve health outcomes. Espel’s clinical program, which includes goal-setting exercises and follow up by pharmacy interns, improved adherence rates beyond national averages. Since opening in 2006, the pharmacy has dispensed over 300,000 free prescriptions and saved $4 million in unnecessary medical care, including overuse of emergency rooms.

Thelma Craig and Terri Richardson of Colorado Black Health Collaborative

Thelma Craig and Dr. Terri Richardson formed the Colorado Black Health Collaborative (CBHC) in 2008 to combat health inequities at the community level. The collaborative’s Barber Shop/Salon Program, which provides blood pressure screenings and information about diabetes, heart attack and stroke to residents, exemplifies its focus on linking neighborhoods and communities of color, where chronic disease rates are high, to services they need to live a healthy life. CBHC also assesses how clinics and health care providers are doing at connecting with the resources in the black community and providing culturally responsive healthcare.

DJ Ida of the National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association

Dr. DJ Ida has devoted her career to improving the quality of life for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders by recognizing how important mental health is to achieving health equity. The Denver native helped start the Asian Pacific Development Center, a specialty mental health clinic in her hometown and helped establish the National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association, where she serves as executive director. There, she focuses on improving access to culturally and linguistically competent care for some of the most vulnerable populations and empowering community members to take charge of their own health and well-being.

Steven E. Marcus of the Health Foundation of South Florida

As CEO of the Health Foundation of South Florida, Steven E. Marcus has made health equity a priority for grantmaking. In 2015, under Marcus’ leadership, the foundation embarked on a new initiative focused on linking the community development and health care sectors. This was a way to engage anchor institutions to invest in areas that influence health such as workforce development and affordable housing. The foundation also supports policies and programs to help residents age in place that focus on improving safety, expanding public and green spaces, and lifting barriers to transportation.

Sarah Miracle and Stephany Parker of Get Fresh!

The Oklahoma State University and the Chickasaw Nation partner to accomplish what neither group could achieve alone. Their Solution-based Health Innovations and Nutrition Excellence (SHINE) program works toward equity by examining and reporting on Native American nutrition gaps and developing creative solutions with the community. The partnership has led to culturally-relevant solutions like Get Fresh!, which addresses Type 2 diabetes prevention at the local level, especially in underserved areas, and builds student and partner capacity for engaging in community research.

Garron Rogers of BECOMING Durham

As a youth coordinator with BECOMING Durham, Garron Rogers has tried to give voice and power to young people so they can be the change they want to see. He has done this through mentoring programs in schools, youth leadership academies, and youth peer training. He works with influencers in the community to make sure youths are included in decision-making processes that affect their lives. He empowers young men to defy stereotypes, reduce stigma, and strive to reach their potential. Rogers has not only helped youths with challenges see themselves as leaders and advocates, he has also helped the community view them as vital resources.

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