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.

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 supports national membership organizations from public health, health care, social justice, civic leadership, community development, education, planning, and philanthropy in recognition of their important work in the field. Those organizations find and select changemakers in their community who are improving well-being for the people they serve.

Conversations with Health Equity Award Winners

A video series features one-on-one interviews with each of the 2020 award winners.

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Meet the 2020 Winners

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

2020 Health Equity Award Winner D. Rashaan Gilmore

D. Rashaan Gilmore, Founder and President, BlaqOut

Winner selected by AIDS United

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 a video to learn more about about his efforts to help engage and empower the Black queer and trans community in Kansas City, Missouri.

2020 Health Equity Award Winner Susy Molano

Susy Molano, Executive Director, Oregon Health Care Interpreters Association

Winner selected the Asian & Pacific Islander Caucus for Public Health

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 a video to learn more about the importance and role of the healthcare interpreter in achieving health equity for members of refugee and immigrant communities with limited English proficiency.

2020 Health Equity Award Winners Ilimia Ho-Lastimosa and Jane Chung-Do

Ilima Ho-Lastimosa and Jane Chung-Do

Winners selected by Community-Campus Partnerships for Health

Ilima Ho-Lastimosa—Community Coordinator, Waimānalo Learning Center, Ke 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-DIlima 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 a video to learn more about rebalancing the power and ownership of community-academic research.

2020 Health Equity Award Winner Alex Sanchez

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

Winner selected by Hispanics in Philanthropy

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, Alex is helping to build a new model of community strength and health equity. Watch a video to learn more about his efforts to distribute food and encourage community members to participate in the census and register to vote during COVID-19.

2020 Health Equity Award Winner Linda Coleman

Linda Coleman, Vice President of Resident Services, Human Good

Winner selected by LeadingAge

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 a video to learn more about integrating affordable housing and health to advance health equity.

2020 Health Equity Award Winner Dr. Maurice Lee

Maurice Lee, Founder and President, Arizona Safety Net

Winner selected by the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics

Arizona Safety Net, founded by 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.

2020 Health Equity Award Winner Tsu-Yin Wu

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

Winner selected by the National Civic League

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 United States.

2020 Health Equity Award Winners Carol Zernial and Daryl Quarles

Carol Zernial and Daryl D. Quarles

Winners selected by the National Recreation and Park Association

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 a video to learn more about inspiring good health behaviors in older adults.

2020 Health Equity Award Winner Te Jay McGrath

Te Jay McGrath, TAY Program Coordinator, City of Pasadina

Winner welected by Youth MOVE National

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.



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Have a question about the RWJF Health Equity Award?

Catherine J Malone, M.B.A.

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Catherine J. Malone

Achieving Health Equity

As health disparities in the United States 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