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Center Formation and History

We established the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Equity in 2010 with a program project grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI/NIH).  The innovative cross disciplinary Center was founded, and currently is led, by Dr. Lisa Cooper, James F. Fries Professor of Medicine and the Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Equity in Health and Health Care Equity.  

Early Formation

Lisa Cooper

In 2010, Dr. Lisa Cooper led the creation of a transdisciplinary research center to reduce cardiovascular disease morbidity and mortality and improve quality of life and experiences of health care for African Americans and others affected by disparities in Baltimore. Then known as the Johns Hopkins Center to Eliminate Cardiovascular Health Disparities, the cross disciplinary team of faculty, staff and trainees came from a collaboration of three Johns Hopkins schools; the School of Medicine, Bloomberg School of Public Health, and the School of Nursing.

Other key partners included the Johns Hopkins Community Physicians (JHCP) health care delivery system, the insurer Johns Hopkins HealthCare LLC (JHHC), Sisters Together and Reaching, Inc. (STAR), and several other community partners. The Center also continues to work closely with the Welch Center for Prevention, Epidemiology, and Clinical Research,  an interdisciplinary collaborative unit of the Johns Hopkins University that serves as home to 30+ faculty, including leaders of our Center. Please visit our Partners page, for a comprehensive list.

The Center was one of the 10 National Cancer Institute; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; and Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research Centers for Population Health and Health Disparities (CPHHD). The CPHHD supported transdisciplinary research to improve knowledge of the causes of disparities in cancer and cardiovascular disease and identify effective interventions that promote equitable health outcomes. 

Implementing Our Vision 

From its inception, the center has used principles of community-based participatory research to build strong ties among researchers, health care provider networks, community members, and policymakers. Together faculty researchers and their trainees began to work closely with community partners to achieve the following specific aims:   

  • Test comprehensive, multilevel interventions that speed the translation of evidence-based approaches to hypertension management into clinical and public health practice in Baltimore and create a model for subsequent cardiovascular health interventions.  

  • Train scholars who conduct observational and interventional research to better understand causes of cardiovascular disease disparities and to identify sustainable interventions to prevent and overcome cardiovascular health disparities.  
  • Facilitate the translation and dissemination of evidence generated from the center’s research into clinical and public health practice and policy. 

For more about early lessons learned about the center’s design, please review Creating a transdisciplinary research center to reduce cardiovascular health disparities in Baltimore, Maryland: Lessons Learned  published by the American Journal of Public Health in 2013. 

Key Milestones of the Center for Health Equity 

  • 2010
    • The Center was established with a program project grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health.  
    • Launched three multi-level intervention trials – Project Red Chip, ACT Study, and Five Plus Nuts and Beans for Kidneys LINK to research pages 
    • Established a Community Advisory Board along with other infrastructure (methods, training, and administrative cores) to sustain the current and future studies and to insure rapid knowledge transfer between individual studies as well as the translation of evidence from the Center to clinical and public health practice and policy. 
  • 2015
    • Selected by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to receive a $12.2 million research award to conduct the RICH LIFE Trial. The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) funded this award through the Hypertension Disparities Reduction Program Partnership with NIH and Westat 
    • Launched a monthly Health Equity Jam Session event series to provide an informal forum for colleagues, trainees, and community partners working on health equity research to discuss new research ideas and proposals, research-in-progress, responses to peer review, career development, collaboration, and funding, and to inspire and energize one another. 
  • 2016
    • Received a grant from the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities to conduct the Five Plus Nuts and Beans for Kidneys Trial. 
    • Center Director, Dr. Lisa Cooper recognized as a Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg Distinguished Professor for her ground-breaking contributions to health equity research. This prestigious professorship aimed to strengthen Dr. Cooper’s cross disciplinary collaborations with colleagues across the University and to enhance her ability to address major world problems and teach the next generation. The professorship also further solidified the Center’s cross disciplinary mandate.
  • 2017
    • Organizational name change to the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Equity to reflect broadening collaborations; interests in addressing a variety of social determinants of health and a range of health conditions; experiences engaging with several vulnerable and socially disadvantaged groups in the United States and with the African and Latino diasporas around the world; and our desire to incorporate life-course perspectives and inter-generational approaches. 
    • Launched the Center’s first degree-level course, Applications of Innovative Methods in Health Equity Research, which won teaching awards in 2017, 2018, and 2019. 
  • 2018
    • Received funding from the Johns Hopkins Alliance for a Healthier World to conduct the ADHINCRA Study (Addressing Hypertension Care in Africa) in Kumasi, Ghana
  • 2019
    • Co-sponsored several symposia, including The Fierce Urgency of Now, Achieving Health Equity Together, and 1619-2019: The Legacy of Slavery for Health Equity in Baltimore and Beyond.  
  • 2020
    • Launched the Center’s second degree-level course, Local and Global Best Practices in Health Equity Research Methods.
    • Launched the Center’s first MOOC (massive open online course) on health equity research to share expertise and tools for those not in a position to enroll in a degree-level course. 
    • The Center celebrates its 10th anniversary with a series of special events.
  • 2021
    • Received over $20 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health to launch the Mid-Atlantic Center for Cardiometabolic Health Equity.

Progress and Impact Made

Since 2010, we've made successful contributions to reduce health disparities through our evidence-based interventions and partner with health systems and communities, changing practices and policies to improve population health.  Learn more about these and our ongoing progress towards advancing health equity on Our Impact page.