J. Michael McGinnis to Receive 2018 Fries Prize for Improving Health
J. Michael McGinnis, MD, MA, MPP, a highly-regarded epidemiologist and health policy expert, will receive the 2018 Fries Prize for Improving Health. McGinnis is being honored for fundamentally transforming our nation’s understanding about how to improve health by re-conceptualizing the nation’s perspective on its leading health threats through the publication “The Actual Causes of Death in the United States,” and establishing the Healthy People process of national goals and objectives to target action.
The Fries Prize for Improving Health award will be presented today at the American Public Health Association’s (APHA) annual meeting in San Diego. The award recognizes an individual who has made major accomplishments in health improvement with emphasis on recent contributions to health in the United States. It is intended for an individual who has done the most to improve health for the greatest number of people. The Fries Prize for Improving Health award is $60,000.
A senior scholar and Leonard D. Schaeffer Executive Officer at the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), McGinnis has been a leader in national and international health policy for more than four decades. He is well regarded both for his program and policy leadership and his research and publications on population health and the root causes of morbidity and mortality.
“Michael McGinnis’ contributions to health and health care are incalculable. He has been pivotal in his role of guiding health policy and science. His passion and commitment to improving the health and well-being of people have been unwavering,” said Michelle Larkin, RN, MS, JD, associate chief of staff, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, who helped champion McGinnis’ nomination for the Fries Prize.
McGinnis established the Healthy People process for creating and tracking national health goals. Healthy People provides science-based, 10-year national objectives for improving the health of all Americans. The program encourages collaborations across communities and sectors; empowers individuals to make informed health decisions; and measures the impact of prevention activities.
Since the Healthy People initiative began in 1979, the United States has made significant progress including reducing major causes of death such as heart disease and cancer; reducing infant and maternal mortality; reducing risk factors like tobacco smoking and hypertension; and increasing childhood vaccinations. During the past four decades, the importance of collaborating across agencies at the national, state, local and tribal levels, and with the private and public health sectors has been demonstrated.
In 1993, McGinnis was the lead author on the seminal article “The Actual Causes of Death in the United States” in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). This pivotal paper demonstrated the factors that determine how long and how well one lives. It challenged public health perceptions about the root causes of health and redefined health priorities by addressing the determinants of health as a means to improve health. The article highlighted that substantial sustained improvements to health required dealing with the causes rather than treatment alone. He was also the lead author on the 2002 article “The Case for More Active Policy Attention to Health Promotion” in the journal Health Affairs. This article conceptualized and assessed the ways health is a function of the interplay of factors in five domains, showing that on a population basis the influence of behavioral, social, and environmental factors overshadowed medical care and inherited factors.
“Dr. McGinnis has created some of the world’s most influential approaches for highlighting the importance of prevention and positive behavior change for addressing major health challenges,” said Judith Monroe, MD, president and CEO of the CDC Foundation. “His research and leadership have had a profound effect on improving the lives of Americans, and we are delighted to award him the Fries Prize for Improving Health for his transformative impact on society.”
McGinnis is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine, creator of its Learning Health System Initiative and executive director of the NAM Leadership Consortium for a Value & Science-Driven Health System. He held continuous appointments through the Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton Administrations at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which has policy responsibilities for disease prevention and health promotion. In this capacity, he was founder and steward of a number of ongoing programs and policies, including the Healthy People program; the HHS/USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans; the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force; and the Ten Essential Services of Public Health.
In addition, McGinnis served as founding director and chair of the health program at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; the World Bank/European Commission Task Force for Health Reconstruction in Bosnia; the Office of Research Integrity; and the HHS Nutrition Policy Board. Early in his career, he served as director of the World Health Organization’s smallpox eradication program in Uttar Pradesh, India.
His recognitions include the Distinguished Service Medal, the 1996 National Health Leader of the Year award and the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health 2013 Public Health Hero award.
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, which 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.