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Public Policy

Achieving heath equity requires close attention to policies. Traditionally, people think of policy as something imposed by government, and largely via legislation. Yet, institutional practices and policies within the private sector can also impact health. 

Ensuring just and equitable treatment of all people in all situations within health care is a major focus of the Center’s work. Through her legacy of cutting edge research, Center Director Dr. Lisa Cooper has highlighted how institutional policies and practices within the health care sector can impact progress towards achieving health equity.  In particular, a history of research focused on illuminating pathways by which racial/ethnic minorities receive inequitable health care sets the stage for the Center’s emerging role as a leading voice for health care sector transformation via its efforts to describe and address institutional policies and practices that can undermine health equity goals. 

In the same way that both institutional policies and public policies impact health care delivery, policies affecting sectors outside health care have major impacts on population health and health equity. 

The research is clear: the conditions in which people live, learn, work, play, and worship have significant impacts on health. Addressing inequities in access to resources and health-promoting environments is critical to achieving health equity. 

Our Approach to Influencing Public Policy 

Johns Hopkins panelists stand on stage

Via joint seminars, research collaborations across disciplines, policy-focused symposia, and invited professorships; The Center for Health Equity is expanding the discourse regarding how best to achieve health equity goals. These seminars and invited professorships have focused on the role of research in informing policy at the local, state, and national level. Researchers from varied disciplines including public health and political science have shared their research on diverse issues including understanding the impacts of criminal justice policies and practices in U.S. cities on communities of color; exploring the relationship between economic policies and health among African-American communities in the U.S.; and examining the role of economic development and gentrification in modulating access to healthy foods and cardiovascular disease risk among African Americans. 

The Center for Health Equity is committed to bringing research into policy decisions within private institutions, at all levels of government, and across sectors. Approaches to improving the lives of all people that address poverty, neighborhood conditions, education, employment, and access to healthcare can all support health equity. 

How do these approaches work?  

Effective policies addressing these conditions can improve health and promote health equity by: 

  • Reducing or eliminating unhealthy neighborhood or workplace conditions  
  • Supporting healthy behaviors and making the healthy choice the default choice 
  • Informing health system change to promote equitable access to high quality diagnostic and treatment services 

History of the Program

Since 2017 Dr. Rachel Thorton has served as the Associate Director of the Center's Policy program.

To learn about ongoing activities or previous efforts to support policy change, please visit the following pages:

  • Our Impact Page for examples of policy influence by the Center, including two congressional testimonies
  • The Public Policy News page on our Health Equity Action Hub offers updates about ongoing efforts to inform policy at local, state and federal level.