The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has announced the winners of the 2018 Award for Health Equity, which recognizes individuals who have changed systems and policies at the local level with the aim of increasing the chances that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to live the healthiest life possible.
Through the program, which was launched in 2015, organizations from the fields of public health, health care, social justice, civic leadership, community development, education, planning, and philanthropy select changemakers in their community who are improving well-being for the people they serve. This year's honorees include Sharon Conard-Wells and Angela Bannerman Ankoma of the Sankofa Community Initiative (selected by the National Civic League), who are working to transform blighted properties in Providence, Rhode Island's West End neighborhood into social hubs and community markets; XinQi Dong of the Rutgers Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research (Asian & Pacific Islander Caucus for Public Health), whose research has shown how culture and tradition factor into a higher prevalence of psychological distress, social isolation, dementia, and cancer among older Chinese-Americans; and Alma McCormick and Suzanne Held of Messengers for Health (Community-Campus Partnerships for Health), who are working with members of the health centers, tribal healthcare providers, and residents of the Crow Reservation in Montana to bring health and wellness to the community.
The other winners are Yolo Akili Robinson, who founded the Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective (AIDS United) and is working to dismantle the systems that dehumanize African Americans and help organizations build capacity to better serve their communities; Angela Settle of West Virginia Health Right (National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics), who is using a free mobile harm-reduction program and a mobile dental program to address the shortage of dental providers in rural areas of that state; Teresa Spitznagel of National Church Residences (LeadingAge), whose program has helped reduce re-hospitalizations and emergency room visits for seniors with chronic illnesses; Janeth Tapia of the North Carolina Farmworkers' Project (Hispanics in Philanthropy), who works to connect farmworkers with health information and clinical care; Becky Tuttle of the YMCA of Greater Wichita/Health & Wellness Coalition (National Recreation and Park Association), who over the past twenty years has helped build coalitions to discourage tobacco use, encourage physical activity, and address the problem of food deserts; and Cante Waste Win Zephier, of Young Women's Group (Youth MOVE National), who uses traditional Lakota talking circles to help Native youths heal from the effects of intergenerational trauma and reconnect with their roots.
"These award winners represent everything that the foundation is investing in to make the healthy choice the easy choice across the United States," said RWJF president and CEO Richard Besser. "Their work exemplifies the commitment and innovative thinking needed at the local level to remove barriers and create opportunities for health and well-being."