Guest post by Jessica Hersh-Ballering
Marice Ashe, public health leader and founder and CEO of ChangeLab Solutions, spoke to the ULI Board of Directors during their meeting in San Francisco last week, on the eve of the launch of ULI’s new two year initiative, Building Healthy Places. The Building Healthy Places Initiative will leverage the power of ULI’s global networks to shape projects and places in ways that improve the health of people and communities.
Headquartered in Oakland, CA, ChangeLab Solutions is an organization that “provides community-based solutions for America’s most common and preventable diseases like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and asthma.” ChangeLab Solutions focuses on healthy planning, healthy housing, childhood obesity, and tobacco control.
Ashe told the Board that it took ChangeLab Solutions (formerly Public Health Law & Policy) a long time – approximately 10 years – before the organization made a real and noticeable impact on the public’s health through improved tobacco legislation. Recently, ChangeLab Solutions has taken a more grassroots approach, assisting communities that want to install playgrounds and community gardens.
In her presentation to the Board, Ashe called for a focus on “making the healthy choice the easy choice.” This is a common public health mantra that navigates the perennial conflict between personal responsibility and social responsibility. This statement acknowledges that individuals should have the freedom to make their own decisions; at the same time, leaders must build an environment that gives individuals real options.
When cities and developers prioritize bike lanes and include visible, accessible bike parking at new developments, for instance, community members are empowered to make the healthy choice to bike instead of drive.
Ashe earned her JD and MPH from UC-Berkeley. In addition to her work at ChangeLab Solutions, Ashe speaks frequently at public health events and serves as a consultant for federal and state agencies.