Meg Thorley is a social scientist by training and practitioner at heart. Over the course of her 20+ year career, her public-health based work has shifted from preventing specific communicable and non-communicable diseases to developing place-based approaches that promote human health and wellbeing as well as environmental sustainability.
After earning her Master of Public Health degree from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill she joined the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), where she spent more than a decade working on high-profile, complex initiatives, including global polio eradication and HIV/AIDS prevention. During this time, she spearheaded the combined use of inactivated and oral polio vaccines in immunization campaigns that led the Southeast Asia Region to be declared polio-free in 2014. She consulted for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in developing parameters for new grants, and for the United Nations’ World Health Organization (WHO) in developing country-level strategic plans to shift the assets of long-standing national, multi-million dollar per year public health programs to new priorities over extended time frames.
Meg identifies building trust and relationships as key factors for success in her work. Over time she has worked and lived in more than 30 countries, and collaborated with many types of organizations, including national government agencies, businesses, non-profit organizations, communities, tribes, and philanthropic foundations. These experiences made her more adaptable and honed her skills in cross-cultural/organizational/sectoral communication and helped her clarify how public health can be an effective framework to address sustainability issues.
Meg believes that the growing recognition of how effective urban planning and design can promote human health and wellbeing can be leveraged to help cities mitigate and adapt to climate change. She was awarded her PhD from the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom (UK) for her research examining how the UK government could engage more effectively with real estate businesses to increase the energy efficiency of the residential building stock, with the co-benefits of decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, and reducing morbidity and mortality associated with cold-related illnesses.
Now based in Los Angeles (LA), in 2019 she opened Urban Intersect Consulting to help organizations create and maintain healthy, resilient communities while transitioning to a low-carbon economy. The practice specializes in building capacity in systems-level thinking; communicating effectively with and building partnerships across disciplines; and developing cross-sectoral approaches to address “wicked” problems – particularly mitigating and adapting to climate change.
She is also an active member of several professional associations, including the Urban Land Institute – LA District Council, where she co-authored a successful grant proposal for the Building Healthy Places Committee; the US Green Building Council – LA Chapter, where she is setting up the Speakers Bureau (designed to increase the profile of female sustainability experts at conferences and other events) for the Women in Green Committee; and the Environment and Community Health Planning and Policy sections of the American Public Health Association.