RWJF Award for Health Equity

Honoring leaders who are changing systems and showing us that solutions at the community level can lead to health equity.

Honoring leaders who are changing systems and showing us that solutions at the community level can lead to health equity.

Information for Nominations

RWJF has funded nine national membership organizations representing varied sectors to administer the awards program over seven years (2016–2022). Visit the FAQs for more information.

Meet the 2018 Winners

These champions are working across sectors to ensure that everyone has opportunities where we live, learn, work and play.

Angela Bannerman Ankoma and Sharon Conard-Wells, 2018 RWJF Award for Health Equity Winners

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

Winner selected by National Civic League

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, 2018 RWJF Award for Health Equity Winners

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

Winner selected by Asian & Pacific Islander Caucus for Public Health

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, 2018 RWJF Award for Health Equity Winners

Suzanne Held and Alma McCormick of Messengers for Health

Winner selected by Community-Campus Partnerships 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, 2018 RWJF Award for Health Equity Winner

Yolo Akili Robinson of the Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective

Winner selected by AIDS United

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, 2018 RWJF Award for Health Equity Winner

Angela Settle of West Virginia Health Right

Winner selected by the National Association of Free & Charitable Clinic

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.

Teresa Spitznagel, 2018 RWJF Award for Health Equity Winner

Teresa Spitznagel of the National Church Residences

Winner selected by LeadingAge

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.

Janeth Tapia, 2018 RWJF Award for Health Equity Winner

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

Winner selected by Hispanics in Philanthropy

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, 2018 RWJF Award for Health Equity Winner

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

Winner selected by National Recreation and Park Association

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, 2018 RWJF Award for Health Equity Winner

Cante Waste Win Zephier of Young Women’s Group

Winner selected by Youth MOVE National

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.




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A rural North Carolina town addressed their patients’ complex health needs successfully—and cut emergency room use and costs drastically.

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2018 RWJF Health Equity Award Winners Announced

RWJF announced winners of the 2018 Award for Health Equity, which celebrates individuals who have changed systems and policies at a local level to increase the chance for all to have a fair and just opportunity to live the healthiest life possible.

Read the news release

Achieving Health Equity

As health disparities in the U.S. continue to grow, RWJF's health equity toolkit provides resources, data, and examples of communities working to achieve better health for all.

Browse the toolkit

Have a question about the RWJF Health Equity Award?

Catherine J Malone, M.B.A.

Contact the RWJF Program Officer:

Catherine J. Malone