APHA’s oldest and most prestigious award, the Sedgwick Award Medal for Distinguished Service in Public Health, was presented to Richard Joseph Jackson, MD, MPH.
The award was established in honor of the late Prof. William Thompson Sedgwick, who was APHA president in 1915 and head of the Department of Biological and Public Health at Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1883-1921. Since 1929, the Sedgwick medal has been awarded annually to an individual who has demonstrated a distinguished record of service to public health while tirelessly working to advance public health knowledge and practice.
Jackson is chair of the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles, Fielding School of Public Health. During his 30 years in the public health field, he has served as an inspirational leader and champion of the link between environmental and human health. He was one of the earliest proponents of uniting public health with the built environment to address such problems as asthma, lead poisoning, inactivity and obesity.
At the California Department of Health Services, where he served in many positions including as State Health Officer,, Jackson developed both the Environmental Health and Infectious Disease Control programs and established the Birth Defects Monitoring Program. That program was instrumental in such laws as the Birth Defects Prevention Act, which required filling data gaps on pesticides, a law requiring drinking water wells to be tested for chemical contamination and a lead reporting and control program, among others.
Jackson also worked at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as Director of the National Center for Environmental Health and fought to ensure all environmental decisions incorporated human biological data rather than merely air or water data. When President Clinton issued an executive order in 1997 requiring protection of children’s environmental health and safety, Jackson was named the leader for this effort by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, reporting directly to the White House and helping with what would become collaborative efforts including the National Children’s Study, and to move beyond regulatory toxicology to bring together such agencies as the Housing and Urban Development, the Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency to work improve child health including to eliminate childhood lead poisoning.
Jackson has authored many peer-reviewed articles and co-authored the books Urban Sprawl and Public Health, Making Healthy Places, and s Designing Healthy Places, and hosted its companion public television series. He has also written and taught on preparing the U.S. health community for climate change and many other topics. His many awards and honors include the 2011 Milton and Ruth Roemer Award from the Southern California Public Health Association for excellence in public health practice, election to membership in the Institute of Medicine and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Public Health Law Association.
“In my mind, Dr. Jackson is a true American hero who takes the statistics from field studies and laboratories to professionals like me who could readily partner to and make positive change,” said architect Joyce S. Lee, an international advisor on Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, also known as the green building rating system. “I have full confidence that the fight against obesity will be as successful as other important programs such as combating asthma and lead poisoning because he has engaged a whole generation of design and planning professionals to effect these changes.”