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Ward, Ph.D., MPH

Senior Health Equity Evaluation Specialist

Dr. Melanie Ward is a public health scientist with nine years of experience leading and contributing to evaluation and research studies focused on reducing disparities and promoting equity across multiple health and social outcomes. Dr. Ward has worked in community-based, nonprofit, and academic settings to drive strategic thinking around embedding, measuring, and promoting equity in medicine, public health, and other contexts. She has developed frameworks and analytic approaches to guide the evaluation of equity promotion in community-engaged and community-based participatory research partnerships, integrating lived expertise from members and representatives of marginalized communities across multiple project stages.

At Abt Associates, Dr. Ward works to center and embed equity in research, evaluation, and technical assistance activities. Her work includes developing strategies to improve project design, theoretical and methodological approaches, and stakeholder and community engagement. Across diverse projects, Dr. Ward provides subject matter expertise on health equity and social determinants of health principles to better empower and address the needs of those most impacted by the problems we strive to solve.

Prior to joining Abt, Dr. Ward was a senior evaluation analyst at the American Medical Association’s (AMA) Center for Health Equity. In this role, she led and supported equity-centered evaluation and research activities, consulting with program teams to develop appropriate frameworks and strategies, data collection tools, qualitative and quantitative analytic methods, and dissemination materials. She developed survey and data collection strategies to formatively evaluate the AMA’s Medical Justice in Advocacy Fellowship, and informed the design of an evaluation to assess a $2 million social impact investment initiative in community-based organizations on Chicago’s west side.

In her work with community-engaged partnerships, Dr. Ward led the development of a conceptual framework to center and evaluate equity promotion within partnership processes and outcomes. This work has been published in Evaluation and Program Planning. She has also contributed to community-engaged research studies examining environmental justice and health outcomes, including the impact of race-based segregation, air pollution, and socioeconomic status on community-level health outcomes.


  • Equity-focused evaluation approaches
  • Community engaged and community-based participatory research
  • Social determinants of health and equity
  • Qualitative methods

Key Projects:


  • Ward, M., Schulz, A. J., Israel, B. A., Rice, K., Martenies, S. E., & Markarian, E. (2018). A conceptual framework for evaluating health equity promotion within community-based participatory research partnerships. Evaluation and Program Planning, 70, 25-34.
  • Schulz, AJ, Omari, A., Ward, M., Mentz, GB, Demajo, R., Sampson, N., Israel, BA, Reyes, AG, Wilkins, D. Independent and joint contributions of economic, social and physical environmental characteristics to mortality in the Detroit Metropolitan Area: A study of cumulative effects and pathways. Health & Place. 2020 Jun;65:102391.
  • Schulz, A. J., Mentz, G. B., Sampson, N., Ward, M., Anderson, R., De Majo, R., Israel, B. A., Lewis, T. C., & Wilkins, D. (2016). Race and the distribution of social and physical environmental risk: A case example from the Detroit Metropolitan Area. Du Bois review: social science research on race, 13(2), 285-304.
Melanie Ward, Ph.D., MPH