Published in the American Journal of Health Promotion

To honor some of health promotion’s best scientists and, in particular, to recognize those who bring outstanding humanity to their field of inquiry and bigheartedness to their writing, I am pleased to announce the American Journal of Health Promotion (AJHP) Papers of the Year from 2020. Our criteria for selection includes: whether the study addresses a topic of timely importance in health promotion, the research question is clearly stated and the methodologies used are well executed; whether the paper is often cited and downloaded; if the study findings offer a unique contribution to the literature; and if the paper is well-written and enjoyable to read. Awardees in 2020 offered new insights into confronting systemic racism, the impact of state health policies on eating behaviors, the role of leaders in influencing employee health practices, the role of physicians in influencing patient health practices and the state of psychological and emotional resiliency. These scholars challenged our profession to reimagine our role in addressing systemic racism and they researched the impact of policies and interventions on ever more specific sub groups. Studying the effectiveness of a variety of behavior change initiatives has been a mainstay of this journal and, similar to trends we saw in award winning papers from 2019, the reach of interventions and factors that could improve reach continues to drive hypothesis testing.

Albert Einstein said: “To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science.”  Our wholehearted gratitude goes out to these authors for bringing all of us bold ideas and taking risks by testing unique and provocative research questions.

The “Best of 2020 List” of Health Promotion Researchers (Volume 34)

Editor in Chief Paper of the Year for 2020

Equity, Justice, and the Role of the Health Promotion Profession in Dismantling Systemic Racism. Sara S. Johnson, Ph.D.

Editor in Chief Review Article of the Year for 2020

Interventions to Improve Mental Health, Well-Being, Physical Health, and Lifestyle Behaviors in Physicians and Nurses: A Systematic Review.
Bernadette Mazurek Melnyk, PhD, RN, Stephanie A. Kelly, PhD, RN, Janna Stephens, PhD, RN, Kerry Dhakal, MAA, MLS, Colleen McGovern, PhD, RN, Sharon Tucker, PhD, RN, Jacqueline Hoying, PhD, RN, Kenya McRae, PhD, Samantha Ault, MS, RN, Elizabeth Spurlock, BSN, RN, Steven B. Bird, MD.

Michael P O’Donnell Paper of the Year for 2020

They Came, But Will They Come Back? An Observational Study of Re-Enrollment Predictors for the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline.
Laura A. Beebe, PhD, Lindsay M. Boeckman, MS, Paola G. Klein, MHR, Jessie E. Saul, PhD, Stephen R. Gillaspy, PhD.

Dorothy Nyswander Paper of the Year for 2020

Development and Evaluation of a Cancer Literacy Intervention to Promote Mammography Screening Among Navajo Women: A Pilot Study
Pamela S. Sinicrope, MPH, DrPH, Mark C. Bauer, PhD, Christi A. Patten, PhD, Martha Austin-Garrison, MED, Linda Garcia, AS, BA, Christine A. Hughes, BS, Martha J. Bock, BS, Paul A. Decker, MS, Kathleen J. Yost, PhD, Wesley O. Petersen, PhD, Lydia P. Buki, PhD, Edward R. Garrison, PhD, MPH.

Editors’ Picks Papers of the Year for 2020 (Volume 34)

Socioeconomic Differences in Access to Neighborhood and Network Social Capital and Associations with Body Mass Index among Black Americans
Stephanie T. Child, PhD, MPH, Andrew T. Kaczynski, PhD, Katrina M. Walsemann, PhD, MPH, Nancy Fleischer, PhD, MPH, Alexander McLain, PhD, Spencer Moore, PhD, MPH.

Workplace Well-Being Factors That Predict Employee Participation, Health and Medical Cost Impact, and Perceived Support
Jessica Grossmeier, PhD, MPH, Patricia H. Castle, PhD, Jennifer S. Pitts, PhD, Colleen Saringer, PhD, Kristi Rahrig Jenkins, PhD, Mary T. Imboden, PhD, David J. Mangen, PhD, Sara S. Johnson, PhD, Steven P. Noeldner, PhD, MS, Shawn T. Mason, PhD, LP.

Impact of Physician Referral to Health Coaching on Patient Engagement and Health Risks: An Observational Study of UPMC’s Prescription for Wellness
Michael D. Parkinson, MD, Tracy Hammonds, PhD, Donna J. Keyser, PhD, MBA, Jennie R. Wheeler, MBA, Pamela B. Peele, PhD.

Is Exercise a Useful Intervention in the Treatment of Alcohol Use Disorder? Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
Fatih Gür, PhD, Ganime Can Gür, PhD.

Stronger State School Nutrition Laws Are Associated With Healthier Eating Behaviors and Optimal Weight Status in US Adolescents
Namrata Sanjeevi, PhD, Leah M. Lipsky, PhD, Tonja R. Nansel, PhD, Denise Haynie, PhD, Aiyi Liu, PhD, Bruce Simons-Morton, Ed.D.

The Association between Childhood Adversity and Self-Rated Physical Health in US College Students
Lisa M. Krinner, MSc, Jan Warren-Findlow, PhD, Jessamyn Bowling, PhD, MPH.

Current Issues and Growing Trends in Health Promotion

Like countless other writers in 2020, I have described how the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the legacy of health inequities experienced by Black, Indigenous and People of Color. Indeed, do an internet search on “COVID-19 laid bare” and you’ll see results confirming that “laid bare” is how a deluge of writers have described a syndemic where a pernicious virus has exacerbated a crisis of racial discrimination. One of our Associate Editor’s in Chief at AJHP, Dr. Sara Johnson, won this year’s “Editor in Chief Paper of the Year” award in recognition of her usual meticulously referenced writing about any subject she tackles alongside her vivid confrontation of the 2020 syndemic. When something dreadful is laying bare, our impulse is to look away but Johnson’s article is a clarion call to face our complicity with a steady gaze.  In “Equity, Justice, and the Role of the Health Promotion Profession in Dismantling Systemic Racism” Johnson writes: “The need to get one’s house in order hits close to home. Health and wellness are far too white. Given that psychological safety is so fundamental to well-being, we have to ask if it is possible to truly promote well-being in the absence of a more diverse health and well-being workforce. Effective health promotion solutions that meet the needs of a diverse array of team members cannot be developed without more representation of those voices and perspectives. If an employee calls an employee assistance program, will there be culturally and racially diverse experts with whom they can speak? Are we sensitive enough to the fact that there is more stigma about mental health among Black team members?” Johnson also notes that whether “we work in corporate, not-for-profit, or academic settings, we must ask how, as a field, we can use white privilege to support Black colleagues and to ensure that there is a diversity of thought in all of our well-being initiatives. Many are saying that it is time to desegregate the workforce in health care and make mastery of the effects of structural racism a core professional medical competency.”

Dr. Johnson and all of these leaders show us how fastidious study methods and accessible scientific writing can be intentionally aligned with compassionate advocacy for health and well-being for all. Congratulations to these first authors and co-authors. We dedicate our selection and publishing of these “best papers” to all health promotion scientists who are confronting health disparities and working to achieve equity in workplaces, families and communities.

Papers of the Year Award Criteria

The award criteria our journal editors considered were applied to both the study and the paper such that the:

  1. Study addresses a topic of timely importance in health promotion.
  2. Research question is clearly stated and the methodologies used are well executed.
  3. Paper is often cited and/or downloaded.
  4. Study findings offer a unique contribution to the literature.
  5. Paper is well-written and enjoyable to read.

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