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Sara Johnson, MPH '01, PhD '05, studies the biological and social mechanisms that perpetuate health inequality and tests innovative interventions to protect children’s potential.

Contact Info

200 N. Wolfe Street, Room 2051

Research Interests

health equity; stress and health; trauma; poverty; resilience; child health; adolescent health; lifecourse; self-regulation; epigenetics; brain development
Experiences & Accomplishments
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
University of California, Los Angeles
Dr. Johnson’s research focuses on understanding how chronic stress in early life shapes the biology of child health and development. She is particularly interested in understanding the biological and social mechanisms that help perpetuate health disparities across the life course and across generations and ways to interrupt them. Current projects include an investigation of maternal stress in pregnancy and its impact on child growth via epigenetic mechanisms, and a three-generation study of families in Baltimore focused on understanding pathways to success in the context of early adversity. Dr. Johnson's previous research focused on brain development in adolescence and its implications for adolescent health policy, social influences on neurodevelopment, and adolescent injury and violence prevention.

Dr. Johnson is Director of the Rales Center for the Integration of Health and Education in the Johns Hopkins Children's Center. The Center is focused on testing new models of school-based health programming to reduce health and educational inequality. She also directs the Johns Hopkins General Pediatrics Fellowship Program.
Honors & Awards
Pioneer in Children’s Wellbeing Award, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Ashoka Changemakers, 2016
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Leadership Development Program in Population Health Science, 2105
Advising, Mentoring and Teaching Recognition Award (AMTRA), 2013
JHSPH Excellence in Teaching Award, 2011, 2012, 2013 & 2014
Delta Omega, Alpha Chapter, national public health honor society, 2006
William Haddon, Jr. Fellowship in Injury Prevention, 2004-2005
Phi Beta Kappa, 1997
Select Publications
Selected publications.
  • Johnson SB, Riis JL, Noble KG. State of the Art Review: Poverty and the Developing Brain. Pediatrics. 2016 Mar 7. pii: peds.2015-3075. [Epub ahead of print] Review. PubMed PMID: 26952506.
  • Riis JL, Granger DA, Minkovitz CS, Bandeen-Roche K, DiPietro JA, Johnson SB. Maternal distress and child neuroendocrine and immune regulation. Soc Sci Med. 2016 Feb;151:206-14.
  • Johnson SB, Riley AW, Granger DA, Riis JA.  The science of early life toxic stress for pediatric practice and advocacy. Pediatrics, 2013;131(2):319–327.
  • Johnson SB, Blum RW, Giedd JN. Adolescent maturity and the brain: the promise and pitfalls of neuroscience research in adolescent health policy. J Adolesc Health. 2009 Sep;45(3):216-21.
  • Bair-Merritt MH, Voegtline K, Granger DA, Ghazarian SR, The Family Life Project Investigators, Johnson SB. Maternal intimate partner violence exposure, child cortisol reactivity and child asthma. Child Abuse and Neglect. 2015; 58:50-57 [PMCID: 4446253]