Dawn Hunter, J.D., M.P.H., is director of the Network’s Southeastern Region Office. Dawn is an experienced state health department policymaker and legislative analyst whose work focuses on research, analysis, implementation, and capacity building related to the use of law and policy to improve health outcomes and advance racial equity. She is particularly interested in the development of racial equity action plans and implementation strategies at the state and local level and leads an ongoing assessment of declarations of racism as a public health crisis and related efforts to address health inequities. In the past year, she has been collaborating with partners in the Collaborative for Anti-Racism and Equity. Dawn also focuses on strategies to improve health outcomes through civic engagement and served as the lead author of the Health & Democracy Index. She also conducts training on equity in public health messaging through the Becoming Better Messengers initiative. Prior to joining the Network, Dawn served in a number of roles focused on public health, policy, and health equity, including serving as deputy state health official at the New Mexico Department of Health, where some of her core responsibilities included managing the Department’s legislative agenda and policy activities as well as strategic planning, performance management, and public health accreditation.

Dawn started her career in child protective services in Hillsborough County, Florida.  She later transitioned into research and development as a microbiologist at the University of South Florida, Center for Biological Defense, with a focus on rapid detection methods for food and waterborne pathogens.  Dawn is Certified in Public Health by the National Board of Public Health Examiners. She received her A.B. in English Literature from Princeton University, her B.S. in Microbiology and her M.P.H. in Global Communicable Disease from the University of South Florida, and her J.D. from Stetson University College of Law.

Dawn was awarded the APHA Law Section Jennifer Robbins Award for the Practice of Public Health Law in 2021, and received a 2023 Outstanding Alumni Award from the University of South Florida, College of Public Health.

Articles & Resources

Prison Procurement Laws in the Southeast

Fact SheetMechanisms for Advancing Health Equity

June 1, 2023
by Dawn Hunter

Incarcerated workers across the U.S. provide valuable goods and services, producing items used in state and local government agencies and engaging in work like road repair, firefighting, and post-disaster clean-up. They generate more than $2 billion a year in goods and $9 billion a year in services, but are not covered by typical workplace protections, like minimum wage and workplace safety laws. It is important for states to strike a balance between the requirements for prison labor and protecting the health and well-being of incarcerated people. This Fact Sheet summarizes prison procurement laws in states in the Network’s Southeastern Region, prompted by a question from the state of Virginia.

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Direct Entry Midwives Across the Nation

50-state surveyReproductive Health and Equity Maternal and Child HealthHealth and Health Care

May 3, 2023
by Dawn Hunter and Phyllis Jeden

Midwives play a critical role in reducing maternal mortality and many states have made an effort to expand the number of midwives by allowing the licensure of “direct entry” midwives who may be credentialed despite not having a formal nursing education. This resource provides a summary of laws in all states and the District of Columbia regulating direct entry, including training requirements for licensure, the state regulatory body, and what medications midwives can administer while practicing.

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Shuttered Hospital in Hammond, Indiana Exemplifies Ongoing Struggle for Rural Healthcare

Law & Policy InsightsInjury Prevention and SafetyHealth Reform

May 3, 2023
by Dawn Hunter

Wayne County Michigan, which encompasses the City of Detroit, has a large population of residents of color and also faces some of the state’s most significant challenges. Recently, the county has taken significant measures to address acknowledged disparities in health outcomes, creating Regional Health Equity Advisory Councils, a Black Leadership Council, and committing $300 million to support more than 100 programs to further positive, systemic change.

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Six Policies that Advance Black Health and Wellbeing

Policy BriefMechanisms for Advancing Public HealthCivic Engagement and VotingMechanisms for Advancing Health EquityReproductive Health and Equity 

February 23, 2023
by April Shaw, Betsy Lawton, Dawn Hunter, Jennifer Piatt, Kathleen Hoke, Mosalewa Ani and Sara Rogers

In honor of Black History Month, Network attorneys and staff have highlighted six policies that have the power to reduce health disparities and improve outcomes for Black people and communities of color throughout the United States. This policy brief serves as a practical tool to help public health professionals, leaders, and partners share strategies that can advance, rather than threaten, Black health and wellbeing over the long-term.

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Fighting for Public Health: How Do We Strengthen Public Health Advocacy at Local, State, and National Levels?

WebinarsPublic Health AuthorityPublic Health Advocacy and Decision-Making

January 26, 2023
by Dawn Hunter

Attend this webinar to obtain insights and the key take-aways from a feasibility study, commissioned by the Network, in which public health advocates and leaders from 45 organizations where asked how we can strengthen public health advocacy. Their responses provided a picture of the current state of affairs in public health and opportunities to strengthen the voice of public health in advocating for evidence-based, sound public health interventions and policies, and for the profession and practice of public health itself.

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Legislative Trends in Health and Racial Equity, 2021-2022

Law & Policy InsightsMechanisms for Advancing Health EquityLegislation and Legal Challenges

December 9, 2022
by Dawn Hunter and Sara Rogers

Creating a government that is truly for everyone requires laws and policies that eliminate racial and ethnic disparities and improve outcomes for all. As 2023 state legislative sessions approach, it is important to look back at trends over the last few years in legislation impacting health and racial equity to understand how states are trying to address the health impacts of racism, be accountable for commitments to address racism as a public health crisis, and ensure the conditions for all people to thrive. State legislation is one important mechanism for creating the infrastructure for healthy communities. We assessed legislation for the past two years, looking at 447 bills. Below, we discuss two important trends.

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Using Law and Policy to Advance Health Equity: Recommendations from the White House Health Equity Task Force

Law & Policy InsightsCOVID-19 and Health EquityMechanisms for Advancing Health Equity

July 13, 2022
by Dawn Hunter

On January 21, 2021, the Biden Administration issued a National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness. One of the action items in the plan was to establish the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force to make recommendations on strategies to mitigate health and social inequities due to COVID-19. The Task Force concluded its work in October 2021, issuing a Final Report and Recommendations. The report includes 36 recommendations involving law and policy that provide a framework for improving health outcomes.

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Racism as a Public Health Crisis—Perspectives on Healthy Aging

ReportRacism as a Public Health Crisis

April 21, 2022
by Betsy Lawton and Dawn Hunter

This report uses a revised Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) framework put forward by Ruqaiijah Yearby to examine the role of law as a tool to address structural discrimination, with a focus on health impacts across the lifespan. This framework illustrates how law and the systems it interacts with can shape health and well-being and identifies structural discrimination as the root cause of disparities in health outcomes. 

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COVID-19 Equity Task Forces as An Opportunity to Advance Health Equity

Law & Policy InsightsCOVID-19 and Health Equity

February 23, 2022
by Betsy Lawton and Dawn Hunter

Early on in the pandemic, as the inequitable COVID-19 health outcomes experienced by Black, Hispanic, Latino and Latina, and Indigenous communities were becoming more pronounced, many state and local governments created task forces to address the disproportionate burden of COVID-19 on communities of color and other marginalized populations. The Network analyzed the composition and role of these task forces, the legal mechanisms establishing them, common categories of task force recommendations and top policy recommendations, and opportunities for task forces to translate recommendations into actions that advance health equity.

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Network for Public Health Law Comment to HHS Providing Evidence Showing Relationship Between Health and Voting

Network NewsCivic Engagement and Voting

January 11, 2022
by Dawn Hunter

The Network's Southeastern Region Director Dawn Hunter submitted a response on January 10 to the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Solicitation of Written Comments on Proposed Healthy People 2030 Objectives and Request for Information on the Relationship Between Voter Participation and Health. Read the response here. The Healthy People initiative serves as key guidance to health departments and their partners in developing a robust and comprehensive agenda that improves public health and health equity in the communities they serve.

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