Cassandra Arroyo Johnson, MS, PhD

Assistant ProfessorArroyoJohnsonC
Division of Public Health Sciences
Department of Surgery
(314) 286-0383

Research Overview

Cassandra Arroyo Johnson is a biostatistician and social epidemiologist in the Division of Public Health Sciences at Washington University School of Medicine. Her research interests within the Division will focus on social and behavioral determinants of chronic disease among youth and adults. There will be a particular emphasis on physical activity, resources for physical activity in schools and the community, and the social and built environment's impact on health and wellness in St Louis. Secondary data analysis, community-based participatory research, and community-campus partnerships for chronic disease prevention serve as the underlying methodological approaches for my research when applicable and feasible. The Arroyo-Johnson Lab will focus on translation and dissemination of evidence-based community assessments to elucidate health disparities, as well as, evidence-based, sustainable primary prevention and intervention strategies for health equity in the St. Louis metropolitan area.  Through research and service, our work seeks to demonstrate a commitment to the idea that the elimination of health disparities and creation of health equity must happen by substantially changing the social, political, ethical, and economic norms that perpetuate them.

Dr. Arroyo-Johnson has two primary lines of research: 1) a biostatistical track that conducts applied statistical research on methods for community-based chronic disease prevention and intervention programs and health disparities research; and 2) a community-based social and behavioral determinants of health track that will focus on building community capacity for community-based participatory research, expanding community-campus partnerships for health, as well as the implementation and evaluation of community-based participatory research projects to support the creation of health equity.


Grants - 2014
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), the nation’s leading philanthropy working to build a Culture of Health in America, awarded Dr. Arroyo-Johnson, PhD, a 12-month, $100,000 grant through the New Connections program. The grant will allow Dr. Arroyo-Johnson to work collaboratively with the St. Louis, MO Department of Health and the Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) Partnership to conduct a comprehensive safety assessment of all publicly accessible playgrounds in St. Louis. The project also seeks to determine where there may be disparities in the prevalence of safe playground locations with respect to neighborhood characteristics.    


Community Engagement and Capacity Building for CBPR
Dr. Arroyo-Johnson is personally and professionally dedicated to improving health and wellness in minority and medically underserved communities through community capacity building and sustainable relationships with key community leaders and health stakeholders. She has worked collaboratively with diverse community members to build an infrastructure for Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR). Dr. Arroyo-Johnson provides her research expertise to community-based organizations, developing survey instruments, evaluating projects and establishing a collaborative framework that engages community members to participate in evidence-based public health research.   

Dr. Arroyo-Johnson developed the Jenkins County Diabetes Coalition via grassroots efforts working with university faculty and students to bring residents, leaders in the faith-based community, county officials, community health professionals, and community-based organizations in rural Jenkins County, Georgia to the table for a united purpose. The county seat of Jenkins County, also the JCDC’s birthplace, was featured on Dateline NBC in 2011 in an episode titled, “Millen, GA: The Town that Jobs Forgot”. The episode profiled the lives of three local women to demonstrate the impact of the economic downturn on the small, industrial rural city that led to an unemployment rate of 21%, more than twice the national rate, and persisted for more than 2 years after the nation was discussing the recovery.  While the outlook seemed insurmountable for many in the county, the members of the JCDC saw hope in the partnerships with the help of Dr. Arroyo-Johnson. Since then, the JCDC has applied for 501(c)3 status to expand their work beyond diabetes prevention and management for African Americans to start addressing the health, education, social and political issues their community continues to face. The JCDC has received in-kind support and funding  from a number of organizations and agencies through resources and funding: REACH-US: SouthEastern African American Center for Excellence in the Elimination of Disparities, Optim Medical Center – Jenkins, Society for Public Health Education Health Equity Project, Millen Chamber of Commerce, Jenkins County Family Enrichment Center, Jenkins County School System, Georgia Society for Public Health Education, Georgia Diabetes Coalition, Georgia Southern University, and the Jenkins County Council of Churches.