Anti-Racism Advocate Camara Phyllis Jones Receives 2023 Elizabeth Fries Health Education Award
Atlanta, GA–Camara Phyllis Jones, MD, PhD, MPH, anti-racism thought leader and activist, today received the 2023 Elizabeth Fries Health Education Award. Jones’ work focuses on naming, measuring and addressing the impacts of racism on the health and well-being of our nation and the world. She is a Leverhulme visiting professor in Global Health and Social Medicine at King’s College London, an adjunct professor at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University and a senior fellow and adjunct associate professor at the Morehouse School of Medicine.
This year’s award was presented to Jones at the annual meeting of the Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE), along with her lecture entitled “Confronting Racism Denial: Tools and Habits of Mind for Social Justice Warriors.” The CDC Foundation with the James F. and Sarah T. Fries Foundation honored Jones for her exceptional ability to educate about pathways linking racism to poor health outcomes and to advocate powerfully and creatively to promote transformative solutions.
The Elizabeth Fries Health Education Award, first presented in 1992, recognizes a health educator who has made a substantial contribution to advancing the field of health education or health promotion through research, program development or program delivery.
Jones is a family physician and epidemiologist renowned for her work in educating and advocating on anti-racism. Jones uses powerful and creative allegories on “race” and racism to communicate topics that are otherwise difficult for many Americans to understand or discuss: that racism exists, racism is a system, racism saps the strength of the whole society, and we can act to dismantle racism.
During her 14-year career as a medical officer and research director at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Jones helped the agency understand “race” as a social construct and racism as the root cause of racial health disparities, which helped the agency recognize racism as a serious public health threat.
“Dr. Jones’ health education on structural racism and equity has moved institutions, in particular CDC, to recognize racism as a prominent public health topic. She is responsible for the incorporation into CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System of questions about racism that have provided previously unavailable data on this topic,” stated Robert A. Hahn, PhD, MPH, adjunct associate professor, Department of Anthropology, Emory University and former CDC epidemiologist, who helped champion Jones’ nomination for the Elizabeth Fries Health Education Award. “I cannot think of anyone more prominent and effective as a health educator on the topic of structural racism and equity than Camara Jones.”
Jones was among the founding conveners and a past president of the Society for the Analysis of African American Public Health Issues (SAAPHI) and is a past president of the American Public Health Association (APHA). When she served as APHA president she developed and launched a national campaign against racism with three tasks: name racism, ask “How is racism operating here?,” and organize and strategize to act. Through these efforts she has raised the visibility and empowered state-based affiliated organizations to name and address racism. To date, 260 local jurisdictions across 41 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have declared racism as a public health crisis.
Jones’ former positions include presidential chair and visiting professor at the University of California, San Francisco; presidential visiting fellow and visiting associate professor at the Yale School of Medicine; Evelyn Green Davis fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University; and assistant professor at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Jones is a member of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) Committee on Advancing Anti-Racism, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in STEMM Organizations; the NASEM Roundtable on Black Men and Black Women in Science, Engineering and Medicine; and the O’Neill-Lancet Commission on Racism, Structural Discrimination, and Global Health. She is a SOPHE honorary fellow, an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine.
Among her many other honors, she was recognized with Stanford University’s President’s Award for the Advancement of the Common Good, Wellesley College’s Alumnae Achievement Award, APHA’s John Snow Award and McMaster University’s Chanchlani Global Health Research Award. In addition, Jones has delivered 16 commencement addresses since 2013.
“Dr. Jones is able to take complex and complicated topics and make them relatable, and she does this in tandem with offering recommendations on how we can change the landscape to be fair and equal to everyone,” said Martha Katz, MPA, chair, James F. and Sarah T. Fries Foundation Board of Directors. “We are honored to present her with the Elizabeth Fries Health Education Award.”
The Elizabeth Fries Health Education Award was named in memory of Elizabeth Fries, who was a professor of psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University and co-director of the Massey Cancer Center Outreach Program. She made many important contributions to program development, implementation and evaluation. The Elizabeth Fries Health Education Award recipients receive a $25,000 prize. The award and lecture is presented annually at the SOPHE conference, which draws approximately 900 health education researchers, faculty, practitioners and students for the latest research and practice in health education. Founded in 1950, SOPHE’s mission is to provide global leadership in health promotion and to promote the health of society.
The James F. and Sarah T. Fries Foundation is a nonprofit corporation incorporated in 1991. The mission of the Foundation is to identify and honor individuals, organizations or institutions that have made great contributions to the health of the public. The Foundation seeks to reward accomplishment rather than promise, practicality rather than theory.
The CDC Foundation is honored to partner with the James F. and Sarah T. Fries Foundation, which established and funds the award. As of 2016, the CDC Foundation manages and administers the Fries Foundation’s public health award programs, which include the Fries Prize for Improving Health and the Elizabeth Fries Health Education Award.
About the CDC Foundation
The CDC Foundation helps the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) save and improve lives by unleashing the power of collaboration between CDC, philanthropies, corporations, organizations and individuals to protect the health, safety and security of America and the world. The CDC Foundation is the go-to nonprofit authorized by Congress to mobilize philanthropic partners and private-sector resources to support CDC’s critical health protection mission. Since 1995, the CDC Foundation has raised over $1.9 billion and launched more than 1,300 programs impacting a variety of health threats from chronic disease conditions including cardiovascular disease and cancer, to infectious diseases like rotavirus and HIV, to emergency responses, including COVID-19 and Ebola. The CDC Foundation managed hundreds of CDC-led programs in the United States and in more than 90 countries last year. Learn more at www.cdcfoundation.org.