There’s a memory that popped into Diane Johnson’s head when she found out Jefferson County Public Health Executive Director Mark Johnson won the Lifetime Achievement Award from Public Health in …
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The Lifetime Achievement Award from Public Health in the Rockies is given to an individual who has retired from fulltime employment in public health. The award recognizes significant contributions and leadership in public health.
There’s a memory that popped into Diane Johnson’s head when she found out Jefferson County Public Health Executive Director Mark Johnson won the Lifetime Achievement Award from Public Health in the Rockies. With their children, the married couple hiked to the top of Lookout Mountain 30 years ago where they could see all of Jeffco. That day, Johnson had interviewed for his current job.
“I remember him saying (at Lookout Mountain) that if he could get the job, he could make a difference in people’s lives. Not just in Jeffco, but in Colorado,” said Diane.
Fast forward 30 years later, and Johnson is celebrating winning the Lifetime Achievement Award, an award that honors an individual who has retired from fulltime employment in public health. The award recognizes significant contributions and leadership in public health. Johnson is in the final lap of his career at Jeffco Public Health as he plans to retire from his position in June of next year.
“(The award) is kind of the cummulation of a long time here in Jeffco, and I think the piece that means the most to me is that it was given to me by my peers. They’ve known me over the 30 years I’ve been here,” said Johnson. “A lot of the things I have done in my career were working with policy and legislature.”
Johnson helped write and pass the Colorado Public Health Act in 2008. The bill requires use of assessments to determine population health and systemwide capacity issues; development of a five-year state and local public health improvement plan based on assessment results; and engaging communities in health improvement and increasing the availability and quality of public health services to improve health outcomes. The goal of the bill is to ensure that core public health services are available to every person in Colorado.
Johnson called the bill passing the proudest moment he’s had.
“If there was a statewide public health initiative going on, (Johnson) had his feet at the table. To be honest, when I would walk in a room and see (Johnson) is there, I would feel good about it, because I knew we were going to have a good outcome,” said Jill Ryan, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Johnson also worked to establish the Colorado School of Public Health, comprised of the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Colorado State University and the University of Northern Colorado. It is the first accredited and only collaborative school of public health in the region and one of the top 25 graduate schools of public health in the country, according to the school’s website.
Under Johnson’s leadership, Jeffco has been one of the healthiest areas in the state. According to the county’s 2018 Community Health Needs Assessment, the county excels in lower teen birth rates, lower sexually-transmitted infections, access to parks and recreation; safe food; healthy eating and breastfeeding, and access to healthcare. The report shows that overall, Jeffco is a healthy community and is doing better in some areas than Colorado and the country.
“I truly feel blessed that I’ve been able to work in Jeffco. It’s been a wonderful place with wonderful people to work with,” said Johnson.
When retirement comes, he is planning to spend more time with his grandchildren, stay active in his church and write about medical and public health issues. Johnson is also looking to make a run for president of the Colorado Medical Society, an organization made up of physicians.
“(Johnson) is always there to provide input based on his years of experience and representing his constituents. You can always count on him to show up and provide such great insight into whatever public health issue you deal with,” said Ryan. “I would call Dr. Johnson a public health icon.”
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