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J. Aaron Johnson, PhD - Augusta University. Augusta, GA, US

J. Aaron Johnson, PhD

Director of the Institute of Public and Preventive Health and Professor of Psychology | Augusta University


For two decades, J. Aaron Johnson's research has focused on evidence-based practices, primarily in substance use prevention.



J. Aaron Johnson, PhD is Director of the Institute of Public and Preventive Health and Professor of Psychology at Augusta University. He received his doctorate from the University of Georgia. For two decades, his research has focused on the adoption and implementation of evidence-based practices, primarily in substance use prevention and SUD treatment. His work has been widely published in journals across many disciplines including public health, nursing, medicine, addiction, psychology, and sociology.

Areas of Expertise (4)

Alcohol Screening

Brief Interventions

Treatment of Substance Use Disorders

Opioid Epidemic

Accomplishments (5)

Education/Teaching Pedagogy Poster Award – International Society of Psychiatric Nurses Annual Conference


Frank Bradway Rogers Information Advancement Award – Medical Library Association


Invited Plenary – Carolina Undergraduate Social Science Symposium


Fellow – 13th Annual OBSSR/NHLBI Summer Institute on Design and Conduct of Randomized Clinical Trials


Best Poster – Georgia Association of Family Physicians Research Poster


Education (3)

University of Georgia: PhD, Sociology 2000

University of Georgia: MA, Sociology 1995

Presbyterian College: BS, Sociology and Political Science 1993

Media Appearances (8)

More options, less stigma: How Georgians in recovery are breaking barriers to addiction care

GPB  radio


For Jocelyn Wallace, a former paramedic from Douglas County, her opioid addiction started like many others — with a prescription to treat her pain after a car accident. She was 16 years old at the time. Her addiction would endure far longer. “For over 26 years, I was stuck in opioid use disorder,” Wallace said. “I got married and had kids and my disease just continued to grow.” It has been six years since Wallace last used substances, but she still vividly remembers what it felt like to be waiting for placement in a treatment or detox center to get help. “I'd be looking at my watch going, I mean, '15 minutes from now, I'm going to be violently ill; somebody's got to help me,'” Wallace said. “And then I would give up. And I would leave. Very rarely did I even call them the next day.” “You can pass a piece of legislation, but if you don't have any teeth behind it, then to what extent does it actually happen?” said Dr. J. Aaron Johnson, a longtime substance use disorder researcher. “It just sort of remains to be seen the impact that actually has.” Johnson, who's director of Augusta University’s Institute of Public and Preventative Health, has spent years researching access to evidence-based treatment for SUDs. This treatment ranges from daily medication to cognitive behavioral therapy, and fully depends on the severity of a substance use disorder.

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What’s happening at Augusta University? Sept. 19-25

JAGWire  online


After nearly two decades of rising overdose deaths, the opioid crisis was finally declared a public health emergency in 2017. In the last decade, Dr. Aaron Johnson, director of the Institute of Public and Preventive Health at Augusta University, has been working with physicians and community-based organizations in Georgia to implement programs to help those who may be addicted to opioids. “I tell a lot of people that Georgia has really been lucky. If you look at overdose rates and other issues around the country, given our size, I feel we’ve been fortunate,” said Johnson.

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Georgia battles opioid crisis with community programs, education

JAGWire  online


Dr. Aaron Johnson, director of the Institute of Public and Preventive Health at Augusta University, said during the last three decades, we’ve seen three phases of the epidemic. “Initial issues were prescription opioids,” said Johnson. “A lot of state and federal policy changes, like prescription drug monitoring programs, made prescription opioids more difficult to obtain. So the epidemic sort of shifted from prescription opioids to heroin. We started to get a handle on it a bit and then we started to see the fentanyl epidemic. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 100 times more potent than morphine.”

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Healthy Georgia report gives snapshot of state compared to rest of US

JAGWire  online


Dr. Aaron Johnson, director of IPPH, said one surprise in the study was finding that the obesity level is still on the rise — not only in Georgia, but also throughout the U.S. “As much time, effort and expense that we put into addressing the obesity epidemic over the last 20-plus years, it is still steadily going up,” Johnson said.

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Georgia battles opioid crisis with community programs, education

Jagwire  online


Opioid overdose-related deaths in the United States began to rise in the late 1990s after decades of mostly heroin-related overdoses in primarily urban areas. Much of the increases in opioid-related death in the early 2000s can be attributed to the rise of prescription opioids driven by aggressive marketing campaigns of pharmaceutical companies who convinced the Food and Drug Administration, providers and patients that these new opioid pain relievers were non-addictive. After nearly two decades of rising overdose deaths, the opioid crisis was finally declared a public health emergency in 2017. Dr. Aaron Johnson, director of the Institute of Public and Preventive Health at Augusta University, said during the last three decades, we’ve seen three phases of the epidemic.

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Fentanyl deaths outnumber traffic deaths in Richmond and Aiken Counties

WJBF  tv


There is an alarming number of people dying from a specific type of opioid. These types of deaths even outnumber traffic fatalities. “You never know whether this pill here is going to be your last one,” said Mark Bowen, Richmond County Coroner. It’s the unexpected drug killing people now. Opioid death by fentanyl. “Fentanyl related overdose deaths have become increasingly prominent,” said Aaron Johnson, Augusta University’s Director of Institute of Public and Preventive Health. “So, the most recent numbers I saw indicated that about 75-80 percent of overdose deaths are now fentanyl related. Five years ago that would have been 15-20 percent.”

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Here’s how Georgians’ health stacks up — and it’s not all bad news

WRDW  tv


Georgians’ high blood pressure, obesity, and heart disease levels are all higher than the national average, putting them among the most alarming statistics in a new report from Augusta University researchers. And in health insurance coverage, Georgia ranked 49th in the U.S. The study – “Healthy Georgia: Our State of Public Health” from the AU Institute of Public and Preventive Health – found high cholesterol among Georgians is comparable to the national rate but lower than the region.

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Augusta University selects leadership team for its new School of Public Health

The Augusta Press  


Augusta University has announced its initial leadership appointments for the new School of Public Health. The university first announced it would be launching the new school in spring of last year. In April of this year, after a months-long nationwide search, the school selected its first dean, Dr. Teresa Waters, transferring from her role as chair of the College of Public Health at the University of Kentucky. The new school entails uniting several graduate programs already offered at AU, such as in data science, biostatistics and epidemiology.

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Articles (5)

Psychosocial well-being and firearm storage practices: evidence from five US states

BMJ Journals

Biplab Kumar Datta, Jennifer E. Jaremski, Aaron Johnson


Objective Gun safety practices can play a pivotal role in preventing suicide and unintentional injuries involving a firearm. This study aimed to assess whether psychosocial well-being, measured by emotional support, feeling of social isolation and life satisfaction, influenced safe storage practices among individuals who had firearms in or around their home. Methods Data are from the firearm safety module of the 2022 Behavioural Risk Factor Surveillance System survey of 11 722 individuals having firearms and living in California, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico and Ohio. Respondents were asked to identify how guns were stored in their homes including: (1) not loaded, (2) loaded but locked and (3) loaded and unlocked. Multinomial logistic regression models with controls for sociodemographic correlates assess the relative risks of certain storage measures. Results Relative to the base outcome of not loaded, the adjusted relative risks of having firearms loaded and unlocked among individuals who usually/always felt socially isolated were 1.72 (95% CI: 1.02 to 2.88) times that of individuals who never felt socially isolated. The adjusted risks among individuals who were dissatisfied with their life were 1.82 (95% CI: 1.02 to 3.24) times that of their counterparts who were very satisfied. The adjusted risks were not statistically significant among individuals who rarely/never received needed emotional support compared with individuals who always received support. Conclusion The results suggest a strong relationship between social isolation and life satisfaction and safe storage practices at home. Policies designed to improve psychosocial well-being, therefore, may present an important opportunity for preventing unintentional firearm injuries.

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Using Actigraphy as a measure of cortical arousals in Cardiopulmonary Sleep Studies

Sleep Medicine

2022 Results: A repeated measures ANOVA will be used in order to determine the differences between AHI for participants between conditions and a correlation between cortical arousals (EEG) and movement (actigraphy) after obstructive hypopnoeic episodes will be calculated. Conclusions: This study assesses the risk of underdiagnosing OSA in ambulatory cardiovascular studies that are already used within practice.

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Study protocol: The maternal health multilevel intervention for racial equity (maternal health MIRACLE) project

Contemporary Clinical Trials

2022 Purpose To test the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of a multilevel intervention for population-level African American (AA) severe maternal morbidity and mortality. Background Severe maternal morbidity and mortality in the U.S. disproportionately affect AA women. Inequities occur at many levels, including community, provider, and health system levels. Design

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Racial and Ethnic Inequities in Financial Hardship Among CVD Patients in the USA During the Pre-and Post-Affordable Care Act Era

Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities

2022 The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has substantially expanded access to health insurance coverage, resulting in a reduction in financial hardship, defined as ability to pay medical bills, among cardiovascular disease (CVD) patients in the post-ACA era. However, it is not known whether implementation of the ACA improved the racial and ethnic inequity in financial hardship among CVD patients. As such, using data from the 2011 to 2018 waves of the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), this paper aims to assess the odds of facing financial hardship among non-Hispanic-White,-Black,-Asian, and Hispanic CVD patients, before and after the implementation of the ACA.

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Role of perceived social support in COVID-19 vaccine uptake among U.S. adults


Biplab Kumar Datta, Jennifer Jaremski, Benjamin Ansa, Lorraine Odhiambo, K.M. Monirul Islam, J Aaron Johnson


Background Vaccine uptake concerns in the Unites States were at the forefront of public health discussions during the COVID-19 pandemic. By the end of 2022, approximately 80% of the U.S. population was vaccinated against the virus. This study examined the relationship between perceived social support and COVID-19 vaccine uptake among U.S. adults. Methods Using nationally representative cross-sectional data on 21,107 adults from the 2021 National Health Interview Survey, we assessed the COVID-19 vaccination rates across individuals with strong, some, and weak levels of social support. Multivariable logistic regression models were estimated to obtain the odds of being vaccinated in adults with different levels of perceived social support for the full sample and sub-samples of age groups. Results We found that compared to adults with perceived strong social support, adults with weak social support were 21.1% less likely to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Apart from the age 18-24 years group, the lower likelihood of being vaccinated for adults with weak social support was evident in age 24-49 years (AOR=0.66, 95% CI: 0.52-0.85), age 50-64 years (AOR=0.67, 95% CI: 0.50-0.90), and age 65+ years (AOR=0.56, 95% CI: 0.41-0.75) groups. Conclusions These findings are consistent with a broader literature indicating that social support increases the likelihood of healthy behaviors and decreases risky behaviors. Interventions designed to improve the perception of social support, particularly among those at high risk of mortality from COVID-19 may be a promising tactic for increasing COVID-19 vaccine uptake.

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