Dawn Hunter, J.D., is the director of the Network’s Southeastern Region Office. An experienced legislative analyst and state health department policymaker, Dawn leads work to examine legislation impacting health and racial equity, and to identify and implement strategies to build the capacity of public health agencies and organizations to effectively use law and policy to improve health outcomes.  Dawn also conducts training on equity in public health messaging through the Network’s Becoming Better Messengers initiative and leads an ongoing assessment of declarations of racism as a public health crisis and related efforts to address health inequities.  She is particularly interested in the development of racial equity action plans and implementation strategies at the state and local level. Dawn also focuses on strategies to improve health outcomes through civic engagement. Prior to joining the Network, Dawn served in a number of roles focused on public health, policy, and health equity, including serving as Deputy Cabinet Secretary 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.

Articles & Resources

National Minority Health Month: Raising Awareness and Encouraging Action to Address Health Disparities

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

April 21, 2021
by April Shaw, Dawn Hunter and Mathew R. Swinburne

Several universities across the U.S. have announced plans to require students to receive a COVID-19 vaccination before heading back to campus for the fall semester. Brown, Cornell, Duke, Northeastern, and Rutgers are among them. Some institutions of higher learning, like Virginia Tech, have determined that they cannot require vaccinations because of the vaccine’s Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) status, but this stance rests on shaky legal grounds.

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Women’s History Month: Network Attorneys Discuss Law and Policy Solutions to Promote Women’s Health & Wellbeing

Law & Policy InsightsMaternal and Child HealthMechanisms for Advancing Health EquityMedicaidMental Health and Well-Being

March 24, 2021
by April Shaw, Carrie Waggoner, Colleen Healy Boufides, Dawn Hunter, Jill Krueger and Leila Barraza

In honor of Women's History Month, women in the Network’s Health Equity Working Group have highlighted legal or policy issues affecting women’s health that they see as critically important. The topics addressed cover: economic stability and well-being, pregnancy discrimination, period poverty, and maternal depression. The law and policy solutions discussed here have the potential to improve life for women and girls for generations to come.

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Moving Past Disbelief in Systemic Racism to Understand What it Means For Health Equity

Law & Policy InsightsMechanisms for Advancing Health Equity

March 23, 2021
by Dawn Hunter

Since the Biden Administration released its plan to advance racial equity in the United States, there has been significant pushback against the idea that systemic racism even exists. This questioning is not new, but it has taken on a renewed fervor as state and local governments, professional associations, hospitals and health systems, and corporations have made public commitments to addressing systemic racism and treating racism as a public health crisis.

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Declarations of Racism as a Public Health Crisis: Utilizing Declarations to Address Health Inequities

WebinarsCOVID-19 and Health EquityMechanisms for Advancing Public HealthRacism as a Public Health Crisis

January 21, 2021
by Betsy Lawton and Dawn Hunter

Attend this webinar to: learn where such declarations or statements have been issued, hear specific examples of actions that jurisdictions are taking at state and local levels, and obtain practical steps for using racial equity tools to help ensure meaningful implementation that will have concrete real-world impacts.

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Equitable Law and Policy Solutions to Mitigate Health Risks from Climate Change and COVID-19

Law & Policy InsightsCOVID-19 and Health EquityEnvironment, Climate and HealthNeighborhood and Built Environment

September 23, 2020
by Betsy Lawton, Dawn Hunter and Leila Barraza

As the COVID-19 pandemic persists in the United States, climate change and weather-related health risks, such as hurricanes, wildfires, and extreme heat, will put even greater pressure on the nation’s health and healthcare resources. There are short-term actions that can be taken to protect the health of vulnerable people along with longer-term solutions that can create equitable and resilient communities that can better respond to future disasters.

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Restoring the Right to Vote is a Pathway to Better Health – a Look at Felon Re-enfranchisement and the 2020 Election

Law & Policy InsightsCivic Engagement and VotingMechanisms for Advancing Public Health

September 23, 2020
by Dawn Hunter

Across the U.S., an estimated 6.1 million Americans are denied the right to vote due to disenfranchisement laws. As the 2020 General Election approaches, one of the issues getting attention is the restoration of voting rights to people convicted of felonies. Research shows that restoration of civil rights helps support a transition back into the community and that civic participation is linked to lower recidivism rates among those previously incarcerated. While some states are following a recent trend to restore voting rights, others are continuing efforts to disenfranchise voters.   

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