John Hatch honored for commitment to public health

The Caucus on Public Health and the Faith Community will present the award at a Nov. 12 reception in Atlanta.

John Hatch with his wife next to text that reads
(artwork courtesy of University Communications)

John W. Hatch ‘74 (DrPH), a W.R. Kenan Jr. Professor Emeritus of health behavior at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, will be honored by the Caucus on Public Health and the Faith Community.

Hatch will receive his award Nov. 12 at an awards reception during the caucus’s Interfaith Celebration & Worship Service. Held at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, the event brings together diverse multifaith and interfaith communities, faith organizations, churches and houses of worship, cultures and traditions in the Atlanta area.

The caucus will recognize Hatch for his innovation and dedication to teaching, training, research and development related to health promotion and disease prevention. Hatch’s leadership in the Community Health Centers movement and faith communities has been a model for decades.

The caucus was established in 1996 with a mission to assist the American Public Health Association members and diverse faith communities in understanding the value and vital role that faith plays in healing, health promotion and disease prevention. The awards reception is part of the APHA’s annual meeting.

Commitment to public health

Hatch earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Knoxville College and his Master of Social Work from Atlanta University. He served as an assistant professor in Tufts University School of Medicine’s preventive medicine department starting in 1965. During that time, he also led the community health action division of the Tufts Delta Health Center, an Office of Economic Opportunity-sponsored comprehensive health center in Mound Bayou, Mississippi. Along with the help of Dr. Jack Geiger, this work proved the value of community health centers, especially in Black and rural communities.

Hatch began teaching at the UNC School of Public Health in 1970 at the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research. It was here that he also earned a Doctor of Public Health degree in Health Behavior in 1974. He retired in 1995 as W.R. Kenan Jr. Professor Emeritus of health behavior.

He was also the first black student to enroll at the University of Kentucky Law School in 1948. Due to segregation laws, his professors taught him individually at a separate campus. In 1950, the Supreme Court ruled against this segregation within academic facilities in McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents.

Hatch and the late Howard Barnhill dedicated their careers to community-based public health programs and advocacy on behalf of the poor and underserved in North Carolina, across the country and around the world. Both took an active interest in mentoring students interested in public health practice, especially students of color.

Together, they established the Hatch-Barnhill Scholarship in 1997. The Hatch-Barnhill Scholarship recruits leading MPH students to do critical work addressing health equity in the health behavior department.

The annually awarded scholarship aims to advance the ideals exemplified by these two leaders.

“Dr. Hatch is a living public health legend who championed health equity and community-based practice decades before our field recognized their vital importance. He trained leading scholars of community-based participatory research, including Geni Eng ’83 (DrPH) ’78 (MPH), and inspired the Hatch-Barnhill scholarship that has attracted top students to Gillings for over two decades,” said Kurt M. Ribisl, Jo Anne Earp Distinguished Professor and chair of the health behavior department.