Dawn Hunter, J.D., M.P.H., serves as Director, Health Equity. 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

National Voter Education Week: How States Can Improve Health by Increasing Voting Access

Law & Policy InsightsMechanisms for Advancing Public HealthMechanisms for Advancing Health Equity

October 4, 2023
by Dawn Hunter

Recent research has revealed a strong correlation between access to voting and public health outcomes: states that have more inclusive voting policies combined with higher levels of civic participation have citizens who have better health outcomes. Unfortunately, for many Americans it is not easy to vote, and there has been a wave of restrictive voting laws over the last several years.

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­Racial Equity Interests and Needs Assessment

ReportMechanisms for Advancing Health EquityMechanisms for Advancing Public Health

September 22, 2023
by Betsy Lawton, Carrie Waggoner, Chris Alibrandi O’Connor, Dawn Hunter, Kerri McGowan Lowrey, Phyllis Jeden and Sara Rogers

By May of 2020, the realities of the inequitable toll of COVID-19 on communities of color became starkly evident, and the murder of George Floyd sparked a renewed movement for racial justice in the United States. During this time, the Network began earnestly exploring how best to respond and be of assistance in a rapidly changing environment. An internal Health Equity Work Group (HEWG) was established to create a space for connection and learning, and to identify ways to collaborate across regions to be responsive to what we were observing and experiencing. One of the early actions identified by the HEWG was to “evaluate what services and supports Network users are interested in” via tools like an environmental scan, stakeholder interviews, and focus groups. This report explores the process that was undertaken to answer that question and the key findings and themes relevant to health and racial equity work across a variety of public health practitioners and organizations.

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­Creating an Equitable Landscape for Lactation Consultant Licensure in Rhode Island

Policy BriefHealth and Health CareWorkforce ExpansionMaternal and Child HealthReproductive Health and Equity 

June 21, 2023
by Dawn Hunter and Sara Rogers

Requiring licensure for lactation consultants (a healthcare professional who specializes in the clinical management of breastfeeding) can lead to increased quality of lactation-based care, but it can also lead to barriers to entry into the lactation consulting profession resulting in a workforce lacking in diversity. The regulatory environment in Rhode Island for lactation consultants provides valuable insights into the challenges and opportunities faced by states interested in ensuring the quality of care provided to parents and infants while also ensuring that competent and trained professionals do not experience unnecessary occupational barriers.

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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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