March 25, 2023

Encino, Calif. (Oct. 24, 2016) — The Asian & Pacific Islander Caucus for Public Health announced Monday that Dr. DJ Ida is the recipient of the inaugural Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Award for Health Equity presented by APIC.

Ida (“EE-DA”), is a Denver-based advocate for mental health for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. He is the executive director of the National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association.

APIC will award a $3,000 unrestricted prize to Ida, who will be presented with the award at a ceremony during the 144th Annual American Public Health Association Meeting and Exposition on Monday, Oct. 31, 2016 in Denver. The Award for Health Equity is a seven-year partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and recognizes individuals or teams of two individuals who have successfully implemented systems change approaches to reduce health disparities within the past two years.

Ida is a third-generation Japanese American and Denver native. Her mother’s family was forced out of California and resettled in Colorado as a direct result of Executive Order 9066 which removed 120,000 Japanese Americans and placed them in concentration camps throughout the Western United States.

Ida has always been aware of the importance of social justice, recognizing the value of diversity and treating everyone with respect. She has devoted her entire career to improving the overall quality of life for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders and rethinking how we identify health, recognizing that mental health is essential to achieving health equity.

Ida says her greatest joy is working with the community to create an emotionally and physically healthier environment. She began her advocacy over four decades ago when she helped establish the Asian American Educational Opportunity Program at the University of Colorado. She also helped start the Asian Pacific Development Center, a specialty mental health clinic in Denver, and the National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association. She continues to work towards change and health equity in her policy, training and advocacy work.

Ida was the lead author for the document “Integrated Care for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders: A Blueprint for Action” that was funded by the Office of Minority Health, Ida also helped create numerous curricula to improve the health workforce. This includes “Achieving Whole Health,” a training program for community members to learn how to make healthy decisions by integrating the body, mind and spirit.

The Awards Committee that named Ida for this honor included a prestigious panel of health equity leaders: Mr. Sefa Aina of Pomona College; John Auerbach, MBA, of the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention; Sinsi Hernández-Cancio, Esq, of Families USA; Dr. Ichiro Kawachi of the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health; and Dr. Adewale Troutman of the University of South Florida. They considered criteria such as contributions toward achieving health equity, and use of a systems change approach to addressing health disparities, including outcomes, innovative approaches, transformational systems change, collaborative leadership, resourcefulness and impact and scalability.

The 144th American Public Health Association Convention will feature Master of Ceremonies Derek Okubo, executive director of Denver’s Agency for Human Rights and Community Partnerships who will welcome 12,000 attendees to the conference.


The keynote speakers include Dr. Tung Nguyen, Jake Fitisemanu, Jr., and Kathy Ko Chin, who are members of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. APIC will also recognize the Asian Health & Service Center with the APIC Community Organization Recognition Award (CORA), Elisa Tong, MD, with the APIC Best Published Paper Award, and Janet Chu, MD, MPH, with APIC’s Best Student Abstract Award.

For more than 40 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve health and health care. RWJF is working with others to build a national Culture of Health that will enable everyone in America to live longer, healthier lives. For more information, visit Follow the Foundation on Twitter at or on Facebook at

The Asian & Pacific Islander Caucus for Public Health (APIC) is the Vision & Voice for Asian & Pacific Islander Public Health and Health Equity. APIC’s mission is to advance the health and health equity of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States, associated jurisdictions, and the diaspora, in affiliation with the American Public Health Association. In years past, APIC has recognized the following luminaries: Vice Admiral Vivek H. Murthy, MD, MBA, US Surgeon General and White House Initiative on AAPIs Co-Chair; Howard Koh, MD, MPH, Assistant Secretary of Health at US DHHS; Congresswoman Judy Chu, PhD, Chair of the Congressional APA Caucus; Kiran Ahuja, JD, Executive Director of the White House Initiative on AAPIs; and Ninez Ponce, MPP, PhD, Director of the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health Center for Global and Immigrant Health.

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