Health Equity Advocate Barbara Israel Receives 2022 Elizabeth Fries Health Education Award

Barbara A. Israel, DrPH, MPH, advocate for health equity, today was awarded the 2022 Elizabeth Fries Health Education Award. Israel is a professor in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, and founder and director of the Detroit Community-Academic Urban Research Center (Detroit URC).

This year’s award was presented virtually to Israel at the annual meeting of the Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE), along with her lecture entitled “Community-Based Participatory Research: Its Social Justice Roots and Contributions to Anti-Racist Research and Practice”. The CDC Foundation with the James F. and Sarah T. Fries Foundation honored Israel for her pioneering work in developing community-based participatory approaches to public health education research and interventions to address health inequities.

Barbara A. Israel

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.

Israel has partnered with community-based organizations, academia and health and human services agencies to establish and sustain the Detroit URC. The Center fosters and supports community-based participatory research (CBPR) partnerships aimed at increasing knowledge and addressing factors associated with health inequities and quality of life in Detroit. The Center was originally funded in 1995 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as part of their Urban Research Centers Initiative started by then CDC Director, Dr. David Satcher.

Israel has been actively involved in numerous CBPR partnerships and projects examining, for example, environmental triggers of childhood asthma and strategies for reducing them; social and physical environmental determinants of cardiovascular disease; impact of physical activity interventions on heart health; misinformation about COVID-19 and approaches for addressing (e.g., increasing vaccine uptake); impact of air quality on health and strategies for mitigating that impact; translation of research findings into policy change; and capacity building for conducting CBPR and policy advocacy.

“Dr. Israel’s research has informed CBPR practice and demonstrated its contributions to basic etiologic research and interventions that address social and environmental determinants of cardiovascular health, asthma, and health inequities, building capacity to inform policies that promote health equity,” stated Cleopatra Caldwell, PhD, professor and chair, Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, who helped champion Israel’s nomination for the Elizabeth Fries Health Education Award. “Her continued contributions to the field are expected to build upon and further enhance our knowledge and understanding in these areas of critical importance to the field of health education and health promotion.”

Israel is the lead editor of Methods in Community Based Participatory Research for Health, now in its second edition, a text that is essential in the training of health education and promotion professionals. While the CBPR approach was known by only a handful of public health researchers when the Detroit URC began, the success of the Center and a number of other CBPR partnerships around the country has elevated CBPR to what former U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin said is now “the preferred model for conducting research in communities.” There are presently hundreds of CBPR partnerships worldwide, and many government health agencies and private foundations now require that grantees for many of their funding initiatives adopt a CBPR approach.

Israel has published widely in areas including the development, implementation and evaluation of CBPR partnerships; the social and physical environmental determinants of health and health inequities; the relationship among stress, social support, control and physical and mental health; and evaluation research methodologies.

She has received several prestigious recognitions including the American Journal of Health Promotion Game Changer Designation, the Spirit of Detroit Award, SOPHE’s Distinguished Fellow Award, the Early Career Award from the American Public Health Association, Public Health Education and Promotion section, and several awards from the University of Michigan including the Outstanding Service Award, Harold R. Johnson Diversity Service Award, Eugene Feingold Diversity Award, and the Excellence in Teaching Award.

“Dr. Israel has had a profound impact not only on the on the health of people in Detroit but also in conceptualizing and implementing community-based participatory research,” said Martha Katz, MPA, chair, James F. and Sarah T. Fries Foundation Board of Directors. “We are grateful for her contributions and 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.