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Lerner Center for Public Health Advocacy

Bloomberg School Creates New Center to Advance Public Health Advocacy

With new gift, two centers will merge and expand to drive high-impact social and policy change

Two Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health centers—the Center for Public Health Advocacy and the Lerner Center for Public Health Promotion—are combining to become the Lerner Center for Public Health Advocacy. The new Lerner Center will integrate media advocacy, social marketing, and policymaker-engagement skills to ensure public health leaders have the capability to enhance public health messaging and campaigns and to advance the translation of evidence into impact.

Designed to be highly collaborative, the new Lerner Center will draw upon experts across the School and in the field to translate public health knowledge into action and work with collaborators to stimulate innovation through grants, prizes, and on-the-ground advocacy engagement opportunities for students, faculty, and staff.

The merger and expansion are possible thanks to a generous new gift from Helaine Lerner and her late husband, Sid Lerner, longtime friends of the School. The advertising executive and public health champion is best known for creating the Meatless Monday campaign, one of the most successful public health initiatives of all time. Shelley Hearne, DrPH, MPH, Deans Sommer and Klag Professor of the Practice for Public Health Advocacy, will direct the new Center, which will reside in the Department of Health Policy and Management.

“Sid Lerner was a true visionary,” said Hearne. “He knew how using a marketing approach to advance public health initiatives at both the individual and population level would amplify impact. We are thrilled to build on Sid’s legacy and teach the next generation of public health leaders the skills and techniques that will help them drive evidence-based public health solutions more effectively.”

"The new Lerner Center for Public Health Advocacy will help us teach students how to convey public health science and policy as well as advocate for a healthier future for everyone,” said Dean Ellen J. MacKenzie, PhD ’79, ScM ’75. “We are grateful that Helaine is honoring Sid and their mutual commitment to the School in this way. Sid recognized that good science wasn’t enough—that for us to succeed, we need to communicate public health findings in ways that are accessible and actionable.”

With funding from the Lerners, the School established the Lerner Center for Public Health Promotion in 2014 to develop and disseminate programs that encourage healthy behavioral change and train faculty and students in health promotion and advocacy. The Lerner Center partnered closely with the Monday Campaigns to research, implement, and advise on health promotion programs. Sara Benjamin-Neelon, PhD, JD, MPH, professor in the Department of Health, Behavior and Society, was appointed inaugural director of the Lerner Center for Public Health Promotion in 2016. She was also the inaugural holder of the Helaine and Sidney Lerner Professorship. Benjamin-Neelon, who has a joint appointment in the Department of International Health, will remain on faculty and collaborate with the new Center.

Hearne joined the Bloomberg School faculty full-time in 2021 as the director of the Center for Public Health Advocacy and the inaugural Deans Sommer and Klag Professor of the Practice in Public Health Advocacy. The professorship is endowed by Sid and Helaine Lerner to honor the School’s most recent deans, Mike Klag, MD, MPH ’87, Dean Emeritus and Second Century Distinguished Professor, and Al Sommer, MD, MHS ’73, Dean Emeritus and professor at the Bloomberg School. Prior to coming to the Bloomberg School, Hearne founded and led the Trust for America’s Health, CityHealth, and the Pew Environmental Health Commission; in addition to leading other efforts, such as the Big Cities Health Coalition and the Pew Health Group, to enhance advocacy capacity in public health.

The Center for Public Health Advocacy was launched in 2016 by co-founders and co-directors Jose “Oying” Rimon, MA, director of the Gates Institute and senior scientist in the Department of Population, Family and Reproductive Health, and Beth Fredrick, executive director of the Gates Institute’s Advanced Family Planning advocacy initiative. Under Rimon and Fredrick’s leadership, the Center introduced the Certificate in Public Health Advocacy, an interdepartmental certificate program that has graduated dozens of students, along with a distinguished speakers series.

The new Lerner Center will work closely with the previous Center for Public Health Advocacy’s faculty affiliates—a network of faculty members across the School who are engaged in the research, teaching, and/or practice of advocacy. The new Center’s team will include Diane Coraggio, MHS ’09, chief of staff; Meghan Ames, MSPH ’12, RD, education program manager; Amber-Ray Davidson, MS, communications associate; Martha Ruffin, program coordinator; and Chelsea Montero, senior administrative coordinator.