Lakewood, Colorado … Referred to as a “public health icon,” Dr. Mark Johnson, Jefferson County Public Health Executive Director, won the Lifetime Achievement Award from Public Health of the Rockies. He has served in this position for 30 years and plans to retire in June of 2020. Among Johnson’s achievements in his role was helping to write and pass the Colorado Public Health Act in 2008, ensuring that “core public health services are available to every person in Colorado.”

Lakewood Sentinel reported, September 24, on Dr. Johnson’s award and decades-long service. The list of achievements is long. To start with, Johnson helped write and pass the Colorado Public Health Act in 2008, the bill requiring “use of assessments to determine population health and system-wide capacity issues; development of a five-year state and local public health improvement plan based on assessment results; 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 also worked to establish the Colorado School of Public Health, which includes the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Colorado State University and the University of Northern Colorado. According to the school’s website, the university is the first accredited and only collaborative school of public health in the region, as well as one of the top 25 graduate schools of public health in the country.

Commenting to NewsNuggets, Johnson said, “I feel blessed to have been able to work in Jefferson County and contribute to better health for the people.” He regards starting the Colorado School of Public Health as the biggest contributor to the difference in public health.

“When I first came, we had a small number of health departments in a few counties [in Colorado]. After we passed the bill, every county had a department and most had people trained in public health.”

Mark Johnson, member and chair of the vision board of the Boulder Adventist Church, was well prepared to create such a viable health program. He received his medical training at Loma Linda University School of Medicine and Johns Hopkins University and is board certified in preventive medicine and public health.

Hearing about Johnson’s recognition, Ed Barnett, RMC president, said, “What a commendable accomplishment. Healthy living is among the church’s teachings and Dr. Johnson’s contribution in establishing the Colorado School of Public Health as well as the Colorado Public Health Act in 2008 is among the amazing accomplishments of his decades of service.

We all are indebted to such a vision affecting our daily life. Our Conference and its thousands of Seventh-day Adventists are grateful for his work to help our society live in a healthier environment. Congratulations!”

Under Johnson’s leadership, Jefferson County has been one of the healthiest areas in the state. Commenting about the award, Jill Ryan, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said “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,” she told the Lakewood Sentinel.

“I would call Dr. Johnson a public health icon,” she said.

Rajmund Dabrowski with Becky De Oliveira; photo supplied.