Data Equity Advocate Ninez A. Ponce Receives 2024 Elizabeth Fries Health Education Award

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ATLANTA, March 20, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — Ninez A. Ponce, PhD, MPP, distinguished public health researcher, today received the 2024 Elizabeth Fries Health Education Award. Ponce’s work focuses on understanding and addressing health disparities, particularly among vulnerable and underserved populations. She is professor and Fred & Pamela Wasserman Endowed Chair at the Department of Health Policy and Management at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. In addition, she serves as the principal investigator for the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS).

This year’s award was presented to Ponce at the annual meeting of the Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE), along with her lecture entitled “No Equity without Data Equity.” The CDC Foundation with the James F. and Sarah T. Fries Foundation honored Ponce for her scholarship and active policy advocacy for data equity and representativeness generating new understandings of racial and ethnic health disparities, particularly for heterogeneous Asian, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander populations.

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.  

Ponce is known for her expertise in health policy and health disparities. She has made a significant impact on the field of public health through her research, teaching and advocacy efforts. Her research spans various topics, including access to healthcare, health insurance coverage, immigrant health and the social determinants of health.

Ponce’s work has been instrumental in informing health policy decisions and advocating for equitable healthcare practices. She has been involved in numerous research projects, collaborations and initiatives aimed at promoting health equity and reducing disparities in healthcare access and outcomes.

She is widely recognized for her significant involvement with CHIS, one of the nation’s largest state health surveys, which collects data on a wide range of health topics from a diverse sample of California residents. CHIS has expanded the range of culturally and linguistically appropriate survey instruments and aggressively expanded sampling of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders to assure their meaningful inclusion in the survey.

CHIS, which is recognized as a national model for data collection, is conducted by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, where Ponce has been a key figure. In her role as principal investigator of CHIS, she oversees the planning, implementation and analysis of the survey. Findings from CHIS are often used to inform policymaking at the state and local levels, guiding efforts to improve healthcare access and outcomes.

“Collecting and having access to quality universal data is critical in public health. Dr. Ponce’s support of data democratization as well as enhancing the public’s access to data empowers more people to understand and utilize data to improve public health outcome for every person in every community in every corner of the country,” said Judy Monroe, MD, president and CEO, CDC Foundation. “We are honored to present her with the Elizabeth Fries Health Education Award.”

Ponce champions better data, especially on social determinants of health, better inferences on communities of color, better population representation within data, especially for those who are typically invisible in administrative and surveillance data, and better care for overlooked groups.

“Dr. Ponce is known throughout our field as the leading expert on strategies for generating better quality data, especially for people from marginalized populations. She firmly believes that equity-centered data will lead to more meaningful program and policy inferences and better care for overlooked groups,” stated Alyce Adams, PhD, Stanford Medicine Innovation professor and professor of Health Policy and of Epidemiology and Population Health, as well as an associate director in the Stanford Cancer Institute, who helped champion Ponce’ nomination for the Elizabeth Fries Health Education Award.

Ponce is an elected member of the National Academy of Social Insurance and has served on the Board of Scientific Counselors, National Center for Health Statistics. She has participated in committees for the National Academy of Medicine and the National Quality Forum, where her expertise has focused on setting guidance for health systems in the measurement and use of social determinants of health as tools to monitor health equity. 

In 2021, Ponce served as a commissioner for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Transforming Public Health Data Initiative and currently serves on the Data Disaggregation workgroup for the White House Asian American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander Commission. Currently, she is an associate editor for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at JAMA Health Forum and is on the editorial boards of Milbank Quarterly, Health Services Research and Health Affairs.

She has received numerous awards from community organizations recognizing her work in community-engaged research. In 2019 Ponce and her team received the AcademyHealth Impact award for their contributions to population health measurement to inform public policies.

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 $50,000 prize. The award and lecture are 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 $2 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.

SOURCE CDC Foundation

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