Healthy Savannah Recognized for Impact on Health Policies that Save Lives

Healthy Savannah receives Karl E. Peace Leadership Award for Public Health Initiatives

(SAVANNAH, GA) Healthy Savannah is pleased to announce it has received the 2020 Karl E. Peace Leadership Award. The award recognizes “leadership in expanding the impact of public health among their peers and/or in the state of Georgia,” and is given annually by the Gamma Theta Chapter of Delta Omega at Georgia Southern University (GSU).

“It is extremely exciting and a joyful feeling to see the work we’ve done be recognized,” said Lillian Grant-Baptiste, vice chair. “We are seeing some serious improvements in health outcomes in our community from cardiovascular issues, particularly among minority populations. Childhood obesity has also vastly decreased.”

The coalition was founded by former Mayor Dr. Otis Johnson in 2007 and brought together leaders from all sectors of the community to advocate healthy policies and build a collaborative environment. One of the first issues the coalition tackled led to the passage of Savannah’s SmokeFree Ordinance, adopted by the city in 2010.

At that time, the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) reported that Chatham County had the highest death rate in the Coastal Health District due to heart attacks and heart disease. In the following seven years after the passage of the Smoke-Free Air Ordinance, those numbers plummeted from a yearly total of 284 to 178, with the rate falling from 106.8 to 61.3. The DPH now reports Chatham County now has the second-lowest rate in the Coastal Health District.

“Healthy Savannah has been at the forefront of major policy changes that encourage healthy, active living,” said Dr. Randy McCall, chair. “We also worked with the support of elected officials and many community partners for the passage of Complete Streets in 2015 and advocated for the city’s New Zoning Ordinance, passed in 2019.”

McCall expects the new Zoning Ordinance to be instrumental in improving health outcomes by allowing some neighborhoods to have more stores and restaurants within walking distance, thus providing greater access to people living there.

One of Healthy Savannah’s most notable accomplishments may have been the founding of the coalition itself. Grant-Baptiste said it might not have been created at all except for Johnson’s determination to make Savannah a healthier place for all after recuperating, himself, from a heart attack.

“He took an obstacle and turned it into an opportunity.”

Turning obstacles into opportunities might also describe the life of GSU alumnus Karl E. Peace, who established the first school of public health in the University System of Georgia.

Peace enrolled at GSU in 1959 with a loan of $532. After completing his bachelor’s degree in chemistry while supporting his mother and siblings, he earned a master’s degree in mathematics from Clemson University and later, a Ph.D. in biostatistics from the Medical College of Virginia. He returned to GSU to create a biostatics center in 2000, and in 2004, his endowment to honor his late wife led to the creation of the Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health (JPHCOPH).

Each year, the Gamma Theta Chapter of the Delta Omega Honorary Society in Public Health selects a JPHCOPH alumni, faculty member, community member, or community organization who has expanded the impact of public health among their peers and/or in the state of Georgia to receive this leadership award.

“As a charter member of the chapter and a long time partner with Healthy Savannah, I nominated them because they represent the true meaning of leadership in public health,” said Nandi A. Marshall, DrPH, associate professor of Public Health, Georgia Southern University – Armstrong Campus. “They have worked tirelessly in the Savannah and Chatham County area to improve health outcomes and work with the communities that they serve. The Healthy Savannah team, board, and partners always stand ready to address inequities through system changes and by providing needed services to the community.”

Due to COVID-19, the actual award presentation is being rescheduled to a later date.

“We’ve come a long way but have a long way to go,” said Grant-Baptiste. “We have so much more work to do, which we will do with enthusiasm and passion. When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion. When we unite there’s a lot we can accomplish.”

Healthy Savannah, a 501©3 public charity is a public/private coalition of over 150 businesses, nonprofits, faith-based organizations, schools, neighborhood organizations, and healthcare and government agencies, It began as an initiative of City of Savannah Mayor Otis Johnson, formed in 2007. Healthy Savannah leads and supports a culture of health in the Savannah area by creating an environment that makes a healthy choice the easy choice; building a collaborative network that identifies and shares resources; collecting and disseminating information, promoting best practices and implementing innovative programs, and advocating for effective policies. Since its inception, this innovative, cross-sector collaboration has vastly benefited the community as evidenced by numerous multi-agency projects, grants and policy initiatives that have emerged from the initiative to create and sustain a Healthy Savannah. For more information, visit

Marjorie Young, CEO
Carriage Trade Public Relations®, Inc.