Special Interest Magazines: Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health -Bronze Medal

Category 18B: Special Interest Magazines
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Public Health Magazine

Contact: Brian Simpson, editor, 615 North Wolfe St., Suite E3136, Baltimore, MD 21205-2179, Phone: (410) 955-6878, e-mail:

Objectives: In 2006, the editorial team of Johns Hopkins Public Health magazine took on an ambitious challenge: dedicate its two issues for the year to documenting two critical, but very different missions of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. One issue focused on public health in Africa, while a second reported on urban health in the United States. The team approached each issue with creativity and resourcefulness.

For the Africa issue, the team mixed essays, feature stories, and news articles with bold photos and illustrations to explain the challenges to health in Africa. Relying on the school’s network of research contacts and extensive firsthand reporting, the writers detailed the grievous threats to health in Africa: HIV/AIDS, malaria, diarrheal disease, measles, the “brain drain”, and many others. Yet they also told profoundly human stories of frontline public health workers, banana farmers, coffin makers, physicians, AIDS orphans, and the scientists who are racing for answers. Reporting from four African countries and compelling photography by a freelance photojournalist and others communicated the on the ground realities behind epidemics of malaria, measles, HIV, and other diseases. “The Temporary Miracle,” for examples, discovered the limits of hope afforded by the antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) deployed against HIV. Balancing this perspective, Dean Michael J. Klag wrote of his own meeting with HIV-positive Ugandans kept alive by donated ARVs. The magazine did not flinch from the reality of problems afflicting Africa, but neither does it ignore hopeful signs.

For the urban health issue the team applied a radically different concept. Using the rubric of “25 Ways to Improve Urban Health,” they created a mélange of short features, news stories, first-person stories, and Q&As to peel back the complex layers of health in urban America. The team’s research led its writers and photographers to document home visits by community health workers, street-corner advice on health care for immigrants, a conversation with the agenda-setting health commissions of American’s largest city, the risks of gun violence in the US, the use of social networks to prevent the spread of HIV, and other topics. In the pages of this issue, the insights of the Liberian immigrant, the pioneer in urban health, the inner city Baltimorean who mentors fellow teens, the department chair intent on toppling the “town and gown” barriers – all speak to the diverse, creative energy and the determination in America’s cities to solve their health problems.

While the two main topics certainly dominate these issues, the magazine team was careful to include news stories about other research breakthroughs, consumer health findings, and faculty honors that were relevant to the diverse parts of the school and its readership.

Staffing: The magazine’s permanent staff includes one editor (devoting 60 percent of time to the magazine). A staff art director devotes one-half time to the magazine’s design.

Audiences: Alumni, faculty, students and prospective students, donors media professionals, and government officials, including policymakers in the US Congress, WHO, the UN, and numerous other agencies and organizations.

Frequency: Twice a year: spring and fall

Average number of pages per issue: 60 pages

Circulation: 30,000 per issue

Annual budget: $135,000

Average cost per issue/unit cost: $67,500/$2.25

Response/results: These issues have succeeded in meeting their objective of explaining the challenges to health in Africa and urban America and documenting the school’s work in both areas. Johns Hopkins Public Health reaches 30,000 readers in the US, Africa, Europe, and elsewhere. It targets an audience of alumni, faculty students, and prospective students, donors, media professionals, and government officials, including policy makers in the US Congress, WHO, the UN, and numerous other agencies and organizations. Perhaps most exciting, the magazine’s online presence ( reaches a global audience. The Africa issue alone has attracted more than 100,000 site visits – many from interested Africans living around the world. Drawing the greatest response in the magazine’s history, readers from Africa, Asia, the US, and Europe joined out online forum on African health ( and added their own comments and insights. One barometer of the special issue’s impact is that a Google search of “public health in Africa” ranks the online magazine’s Africa forum fourth out of more than 92 million pages. The urban health issue’s online forum ( has drawn a similar international response and provoked discussion and an exchange of ideas (including one that proposes shutting down city streets on Sunday mornings so people can walk, bike, and enjoy the otherwise exclusive domain of automobiles). The urban health issue has become part of the curriculum of other institutions and may be included in a textbook about community-based health.

By emphasizing editorial and graphic quality, the magazine has succeeded in increasing the visibility of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, prompting media inquiries and subsequent print and television stories. The magazine has also stimulated more communication from donors and friends who call, write, or send e-mails to faculty and staff members about featured topics and activities. Gift envelopes included in the magazine consistently generate a return of thousands of dollars, which is used to defray part of the cost of the publication.