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June 2, 2016

Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health Names New Director

Center's Programs Reach More Than 50 Tribal Nations in More Than 15 States

Allison Barlow, PhD, MPH ’97, MA, has been named the new director of the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health. Barlow, who served as the center’s associate director since 2002, is taking over from Mathuram Santosham, MD, MPH ’75, who founded the center in 1991.

Barlow, an associate scientist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a leader in behavioral and mental health research, has devoted more than 25 years to addressing health disparities among American Indian populations. In partnership with Native communities, she has helped develop innovative programs to improve child, adolescent and family health and to increase opportunities for reservation-based American Indian youth. In honor of her contributions to American Indian communities, she received the 2013 U.S. Indian Health Service Director’s Special Recognition Award and the Martin Luther King Social Justice Award from Dartmouth College in 2008.

“Allison’s vision and commitment have been integral to the development of the Center,” says Santosham, now the center’s director emeritus. “Under her leadership, our staff and tribal partners will be well served. Her tireless efforts will help us continue to serve the disadvantaged and improve health and well-being. I’m delighted she agreed to accept the challenge.”

Since joining the center in 1992, Barlow has been instrumental in expanding health services to reach young people and families. She has conducted landmark studies on mental health, and on pregnancy and early childhood interventions that have been replicated in other communities across the United States. This includes, for example, Family Spirit, an early childhood home-visiting program that helps parents and their children live healthy lifestyles. The program is now available across 15 states in more than 75 tribal communities as well as additional non-Native sites in Chicago and St. Louis. Barlow’s body of work spans teen parenting outreach and early child development; suicide, depression and substance abuse prevention; diabetes and obesity prevention; and youth entrepreneurship and life skills training. In 1997, she joined forces with the NFL Players Association to co-found Native Vision, a sport-centered camp led by volunteer retired professional athletes. The program has served more than 40,000 youth and families and is now held in four locations.

The Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health, founded in 1991, works in partnership with American Indian and Alaska Native communities to raise the health status, self-sufficiency, and health leadership of Native people to the highest possible level. The center’s programming now reaches more than 50 tribal nations in more than 15 states. 

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Media contacts for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Brandon Howard at or 410-502-9059 and Stephanie Desmon at