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Reflections from partners

Great advances in the healthy communities field have been made in recent years. It takes many partners and organizations to keep the momentum going. Some of the key leaders in the field are highlighted below.


Katie Adamson

Katie Adamson1_0Director of Health Partnerships and Policy, YMCA OF THE USA

It was almost 9 years ago that Audrey Haynes, my former boss and Chief Government Affairs Officer (and now Secretary of Health and Human Services in Kentucky) and I came to Active Living By Design and begged for help. The Y was about to embark on a Healthier Communities Initiative to engage our Movement in the very work you had begun pioneering and we didn’t know what we were doing. You threw open your doors; you let us look in your closets; and you told us everything you knew and offered your staff and yourself in partnership for the long haul. I feel like we have been locked arm-in-arm in this work since then, although I regret that I don’t see you near enough! There has not been a time that I have heard you say “no” to an offer for guidance, direction or a chance to just pause and say wow this work is hard, but the rewards are so worth it. And then you gave me the opportunity to get to know you and your out-of-this-world team more deeply by serving to assist in your Healthy Kids and Healthy Communities initiative. And then I got to meet all the amazing people in Active Living By Design’s partner world.

I feel blessed to have connected with the Active Living By Design team. I know our world is better for your personal commitment and time to this cause, and I thank you deeply for your friendship and assistance over the years. Your team has helped teach so many communities how to fish; how to own and take charge of their destiny; how to bring together people who speak so many different languages and get them to shout loudly with one voice for change. I am honored to know all of you, and I celebrate the Big Hairy Audacious Thing you have created across the country. We couldn’t have done it (and cannot continue to do it) without the ALBD team.

Hooray for Active Living By Design-a trailblazer for so many of us! Back to Top


Katherine Kraft

Kate Kraft_0Consultant

Can it really be 10 years? That means it has been at least a dozen years since the Trustees at Robert Wood Johnson Foundation charged us, the staff, with increasing physical activity levels. They understood that behavior had a major influence on health outcomes and the evidence on the health benefits of physical activity was indisputable. So, my colleagues, Marla Hollander and Karen Gerlach, and I began the research and program planning for a new physical activity initiative. We reviewed the important work done in Canada and Australia that coined the active living concept. We were envious and realized we had a lot of work to do to get people to think of environmental approaches to increasing physical activity in the US. We were introduced to smart growth, transportation planning, land use advocates and bike/ped professionals. Who knew! We visited programs, we talked to experts, we convened thought leaders. We funded pilot projects, such as Durham Central Park, that linked safety, economic development and health in the revitalization of an urban park. We funded a cardiac rehab project in rural Wray, Colorado that created a community wide walking program that lead to the building of a new trail and cultivated a town of trail advocates. We funded a signage project in Providence, Rhode Island that turned city sidewalks into walking paths and engaged businesses to reward those that walked or biked. With each pilot, we saw how community action could build and improve active living environments. Could that have really been 12 years ago?

With this new understanding and our best ideas, we asked to the RWJF boardfor funds to support 25 community projects to create learning laboratories for more research and develop models for community actions that supported active living. We did not have a lot of evidence, but we had passion and promise. The board gave their blessing, commenting, “We do not know if this will work, but it is worth a try.” That set in motion what we now know as Active Living by Design (ALbD), so aptly named by Mike McGinnis, the RWJF VP for Health, at that time. You know what they say, be careful what you wish for….well, now we had money and ideas that had to be turned into program offices, staff, advisors and community grants. What a great problem to have — and the rest is history.

I do believe that the work of ALbD changed the debate about physical activity and the trajectory of many communities. Through the years hundreds of individuals and communities have told me stories about how applying for an ALbD award (even when they did not get it) helped create new partnerships and developed new active living resources in their neighborhoods. Planners and transportation engineers have told me how working on active living has given them a concrete way to focus on improving the health and welfare of their communities. ALbD helped to re-energize connections between planning, health, architecture and other sectors of community life. Active Living is now part of everyday conversation and every solution to the obesity epidemic includes some aspect of active living. Those initial pilot projects and those 25 pioneering ALbD communities have made quite a mark on public health in a very short time. So, happy anniversary ALBD. Back to Top


Pancho Argüelles

Pancho ArguellesCo-Director, Colectivo Flatlander

What impresses me of the way Active Living By Design works is the commitment to create learning opportunities for the groups and organizations they support and the openness to learn themselves in the process. To me this shows a central value of the persons that form this organization; they are passionate about the issues they work on, but they are even more passionate about the groups and people they work with. This is something to be celebrated. Happy 10th anniversary! Back to Top


James Krieger

Jim Krieger_0Chief, Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention Section
Public Health – Seattle and King County

I am a public health practitioner. Knowing what strategies are most likely to have an impact on community health is essential for the work I do in obesity prevention at the community level. We are always short on resources, so we want to make sure we spend them wisely to produce the greatest impact. When I need to know what works for promoting physical activity, I always check out ALBD. The body of work produced by ALBD-funded sites, the tools it offers on its website, the webinars, the case studies, and the friendly and supportive advice available from its staff are all incredible assets for the obesity prevention movement. And of course, I appreciate the funding support ALBD has provided to our local Active Seattle project.

The movement has come a long way in the past ten years. In our county, planners are now incorporating healthy elements into comp plans, cities have passed completer streets ordinances and adopted bike and ped master plans, safe routes to school programs are spreading, schools are adopting PE programs that increase activity, public housing sites are increasing access to PA opportunities for their residents…a lot of progress. I look forward to the next ten years. Way to go, ALBD! Back to Top


Jean Armbruster

Jean ArmbrusterDirector, PLACE Program
Division of Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention
LA County Department of Public Health

The active living movement in the United States has grown by leaps and bounds in the last ten years. If there’s one organization that has done more than anyone to nurture this growth it’s Active Living By Design. You all have guided, inspired, and supported incipient efforts across the country, generously sharing your experience and expertise along the way. Thank you for your leadership, vision and friendship, and best wishes for another fabulous decade of transforming the world we live in! Back to Top


Avia Mainor

Avia Mainor1_0Center of Excellence for Training and Research Translation
UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention

We look to Active Living By Design as a true leader in the obesity prevention field of policy and environmental change. Leadership and staff do not just talk the talk, but walk the walk as fantastic collaborators and supporters of community-led change. Our center greatly appreciates the continued opportunity to partner with ALBD to provide intensive training to public health practitioners across the country. We applaud ALBD’s success over the past ten years and thank you for all you have taught us by sharing your experiences along the way. Hats off to you!! Back to Top


Marice Ashe

Marice AsheChangeLab Solutions

It has been our pleasure to partner with Active Living By Design as part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Childhood Obesity Prevention Initiative. Over the past five years, we’ve participated in their annual convenings which build the national knowledge base on both healthy eating and active living strategies at the community level. It is always inspiring to see the leadership, experience, and commitment ALBD brings to all of these endeavors! We’ve also partnered with ALBD staff members to provide technical assistance to many of their dedicated grantee communities across the country, such as Chicago, New Orleans, Buffalo and Houston to name a few. As the Childhood Obesity Prevention Initiative has worked to establish this national social change movement, ALBD andits childhood obesity prevention program, Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities, have been instrumental in every regard. We congratulate them on this milestone and hope for 10 more great years! Back to Top


Leslie Mikkelson

Leslie MikkelsonManaging Director, Prevention Institute

It’s hard to believe it’s only been 10 years — Active Living By Design is such a core part of the landscape. Early and ongoing grantmaking by Active Living By Design helped seed a network of communities that are at the forefront of healthy community design. These communities demonstrate how concepts about the impact of the built environment on health are translated into concrete actions and policies to transform communities. Their stories and voices are an important part of the national movement. At each step of the way, the ALBD staff has played a pivotal role in nurturing this community success, and you are an important repository for learnings in the field. I so value your counsel and comradeship over the past decade. Congratulations to you all! Back to Top


Adam Becker

Adam Becker_0Executive Director
Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children (CLOCC)

At the first meeting of the Leading Sites for Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities (HKHC), Active Living By Design staff led a discussion that I truly believe helped to kick of the movement in which we are all now engaged to combat childhood obesity at the local level using policy, systems, and environmental approaches to make active living (and healthy eating!) easier for children, families, and Americans across the nation. We discussed whether there was a potential for a national movement. What would we need? Who would be engaged? Would we need a single spokesperson? Would the movement be centralized or decentralized? First Lady Michelle Obama had just planted a vegetable garden on the White House lawn and we thought she might be an excellent champion! Four years later, our movement has accelerated and matured. Childhood obesity is clearly an issue on the national radar. Billions of prevention dollars are supporting communities across the country to improve environments to make healthy eating and active living easier. Active Living By Design has been a critical part of keeping the movement connected to the local community level. The Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children (CLOCC) sends congratulations to the staff at ALBD and thanks you for all of the support, advice, tools, and resources you make available to those of us working on the front lines in neighborhoods, towns, cities and counties across the country. We have experienced firsthand how the support you provide keeps local communities in touch with the national movement and helps the national movement stay grounded in the lived realities of people across the U.S. Congratulations on 10 exciting years, and best wishes for the next 10! Back to Top


Meg Molloy

Meg Molloy_0President and CEO, NC Prevention Partners

You know you have been wildly successful when your work is integrated into communities, organizations, and partnerships, and is making a difference in the lives of so many people. ALbD has gone beyond the original and very ambitious vision, targets and reach. You are now inspiring funders, policymakers, think tanks, national, state and local leaders and other change-makers with whom you have never even had a conversation.

Celebrate the successes of the last 10 years, including the striking finding that a grassroots approach has had a greater influence on grasstops than many processes designed to directly influence grasstops. Whether accidental or by design, it is another legacy to cheer. Back to Top


Laura Brennan

Laura BrennanPresident and CEO, Transtria LLC

What an amazing adventure it has been to witness this incredible movement! With limited understanding in the fıeld related to the implementation of comprehensive community-level interventions to increase active living, this initiative forged into the unknown with 25 ALbD community partnerships and shaped the way we now think about community demonstration projects and national models of technical assistance to support communities. The evaluation of ALbD launched new areas of inquiry for further investigation by the fıeld, including (1) how to measure partnership and community capacity, community assessment, resources generated, sustainability, and implementation of promotions, programs, policies, and physical projects; (2) how to standardize methods for ongoing data collection and tracking at the community level, such as online progress reporting, interviews, and focus groups; (3) how to implement systematic data reduction procedures to condense complex, highly contextualized qualitative and quantitative data; and (4) how to extract common themes across communities using inclusive analytic techniques to build the evidence base. This body of work has helped decision makers, practitioners, community residents, and researchers working in various disciplines throughout the U.S. to gain insights into promising active living intervention strategies and to build on the collective experience of community representatives implementing ALbD initiatives.

Personally, this has been a life-changing experience for me. I had the privilege of traveling to all 25 communities to meet with some of the most passionate people I have met in my career and to see the vibrant and expansive fruits of their labor firsthand. I have had the fortune of working directly with the ALbD National Program Office team and I cherish the lifelong friendships I have made with these extraordinary individuals. The ALbD evaluation transformed community evaluation inquiry, practices, and processes for me, and, as a result, my heart is forever connected to the principles of learning with communities. Back to Top


Tyler Norris

Tyler NorrisVice President, Total Health Partnerships
Kaiser Permanente

A decade of directly aiding scores of communities in improving the health of people and places; setting the pace across the nation in demonstrating what works; and shaping the entire field in the process. We are all grateful, as the good work you and colleagues inspired long ago continues to evolve in venues across the nation, to meet the opportunities of the present and future. Back to Top


Andy Clarke

Andy ClarkePresident, League of American Bicyclists

Active Living By Design has changed the conversation about the built environment in the dozens of communities where it has worked directly, and many more by virtue of the great stories you have generated and leadership you have shown. The League’s Bicycle Friendly Community program is also celebrating its tenth year and in that time we’ve reviewed applications from almost 600 communities across the country. I can say without fear of contradiction that we can absolutely tell when there is an ALBD program in a community – the level of energy, enthusiasm, professionalism, knowledge, and constructive collaboration across disciplines is clearly evident, and clearly makes a difference. Congratulations on reaching this milestone and “thank you” for making our job easier in community after community. Back to Top


Michael O’Donnell

Michael O'Donnell_0Editor in Chief, American Journal of Health Promotion

Active Living By Design has been a transformative force in our nation. The work of this team has resulted in terms like “active living”, “the built environment” and “complete streets” becoming part of the lexicon, graduate programs in city planning at most major universities building active living concepts into their curriculum, and legislation that resulted in more than a decade of federal transportation funding for safe routes to school programs and other active living concepts, not to mention their core focus….helping dozens of communities integrate active living concepts into new neighborhoods and revitalize existing neighborhoods. Back to Top


Larry Cohen

Larry CohenExecutive Director, Prevention Institute

Congratulations on 10 years, Active Living By Design (ALBD)! Thank you for all of the leadership and energy you have poured in to the fields of public health, community development and planning. Your contributions over the past decade have expanded the evidence base for active communities everywhere, providing data and concrete examples of what it takes to create safe and healthy neighborhoods for everyone. Prevention Institute works to prevent illness and injury, in the first place, and ALBD’s research and expertise support our efforts to promote policies, organizational practices and partnerships that will result in safe and equitable communities. Your work brings to light cutting-edge examples of how small towns and big cities are making transformations through corner store initiatives, shared use of public spaces, bike paths and greenways, and farmers markets. These examples are critical to making the case that community environments have a powerful influence on health outcomes and community wellbeing. We are proud of all of your accomplishments and look forward to more collaboration in the decades to come. Back to Top


Jim Sallis

Jim Sallis_0Director, Active Living Research

Active Living By Design has been at the center of an historic shift in the public health approach to physical activity promotion and obesity prevention. Ten years ago, public health interventions for physical activity were mainly educational programs, poorly funded communication campaigns, and at worst, brochures about the benefits of being active. ALBD was based on the radically different concept that public health needs to partner with planning, transport, parks, and education sectors to create fundamental change in communities. Obviously there was great enthusiasm for this new idea, since about 1000 communities applied to participate. Though ALBD has achieved wonderful results, the beginning was a tragedy of sorts. Of those 1000 applicants, only 25 could be funded. ALBD pioneered methods of helping community coalitions’ work and discovered ways of effectively communicating with non-health partners and decision makers.

What has changed over these 10 years is that a wild idea about working with “strange” partners has become the consensus approach in physical activity, nutrition, and obesity. CDC, IOM, and even the World Health Organization have adopted the environment and policy approach. In my mind the biggest validation of ALBD’s work, as part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s multi-faceted active living and childhood obesity prevention initiatives, is that huge federal funding through Communities Putting Prevention to Work and Community Transformation Grants have enabled many communities to implement the strategies pioneered by ALBD. Long live the 5 P’s. Back to Top


Mark Fenton

Mark FentonTransportation, Planning and Public Health Consultant

Active Living By Design has done nothing less than entirely redefine the approach to chronic disease prevention in the United States. Well beyond simply treating cardiovascular disease and the complications associated with obesity, and even more than merely encouraging and educating around diet and exercise, ALBD researched, innovated, tested, and refined the approach now being utilized by every substantive population-level approach to physical activity and healthy nutrition in the country. Every initiative from Pioneering Healthier Communities and ACHIEVE, to the CPPW and CTG grants, to regional and local health promotion efforts nationwide are now utilizing the policy, systems, and environmental approach pioneered by ALBD. Not least of all, ALBD demonstrated the power of convening interdisciplinary coalitions, of creating community level leadership teams, and of focusing on utilizing policies to systematically create healthier environments for all residents of all ages, incomes, backgrounds, and abilities. Thank you for truly being the game changers in this movement! Back to Top


Tish Singletary

DHHS_Tish substituteLead Project Consultant
Regions 5 and 7 Community Transformation
Grant Project NC Division of Public Health
DHHS Chronic Disease and Injury Section

It is indeed my pleasure to celebrate and congratulate Active Living By Design’s 10th anniversary. I was honored to work with the ALBD team during a time of huge transition throughout the final year of the Fit Community project funded by the former North Carolina Health and Wellness Trust Fund and the NC Division of Public Health. The ALBD team remained stalwart, professional, gracious, and dedicated to their mission of improving lives across the state. While my time working with ALBD staff was brief, they left an indelible impression about what it means to work with the community to bring about change.

I recently visited one of the communities featured in the Fit Community Case Studies document which represents the culmination of the various towns, cities, and municipalities that were impacted by ALBD’s Fit Community work. In this low income area, a park with a community garden thrives, but most impressive is the community center’s dance classroom that is open to youngsters interested in learning dance techniques. The gentleman showing me around was proud to share the story of how successful the program has been. The demand has been so great that the center and the dance instructor have had to adjust classes to allow more and different children to be able to participate. This wouldn’t have happened without the important partnerships developed and nurtured by ALBD and the Fit Community grantee.

Thanks for continuing to make a difference! I wish you many more years of success! Back to Top


Cameron Graham

Cameron Graham_0Principal, Cameron Graham Consulting

Throughout the past 10 years, Active Living By Design has led our nation in demonstrating how to live and lead by example when it comes to helping shape healthy communities, workplaces, schools and neighborhoods. Their team has passionately embraced a comprehensive model of health and community change that has many different levels- from policy to the individual level- and offers a true roadmap and clear guidance for organizations looking at how to move beyond over-simplified solutions that only get them so far.

North Carolina is truly blessed to have them in our backyard, not only as a partner organization to many across the state but as a leader for the rest of the country as well. Back to Top


Amy Stringer Hessel

Amy Stringer Hessel_0Program Officer, Missouri Foundation for Health

My first real life experience with Active Living By Design was attending a grantee meeting in Chapel Hill. I was invited as a representative of a health foundation in Missouri trying to figure out how to invest in “obesity prevention”. I didn’t fully understand at the time why I was invited, but now I get it. Exposing funders, big and small, to this work helped bring us into the movement and push us to see investment possibilities in farmers markets, playgrounds, and even a skate park in rural Missouri. The work of ALBD gave legitimacy and support for these ideas that might have seemed out of scope for my foundation previously and deemed too high-risk. The relationship with ALBD has continued well past this initial exposure, and I have been grateful to have ALBD staff as an initiative advisor and grant reviewer over many years and to spend time with them when they visit Missouri and lend their voice and message to our local movements. Thanks to the entire team for being so willing to support those outside your grantee portfolio as we collectively engage in this work to create an awareness, demand, and opportunity for healthy communities to flourish. Back to Top


Erin Hagan

Erin HaganSenior Associate, PolicyLink

I came to know ALbD and the incredible staff there in 2008 through my role as the Technical Assistance Team Lead for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center to Prevent Childhood Obesity. I worked closely with the team during the time the RWJF Center was active to provide technical assistance to the Healthy Kids Healthy Communities grantees, and I continue share the stories of their successes with others engaged in similar efforts across the country. The staff at ALBD is dedicated, driven, creative, and passionate. Not only are they exceptional people to work with, but they’re pretty fun to hang out with too! I look forward to reuniting with the staff and grantees each year at the annual meetings, which have become almost like family reunions (but without the dysfunction of most real families)!

Congratulations, ALBD, on 10 years of amazing accomplishments – and to countless more to come! Back to Top


Cathy Thomas

Cathy Thomas_0Physical Activity and Nutrition Branch
NC Division of Public Health

ALBD has been and will continue to be a key partner for the North Carolina Division of Public Health. The staff of ALBD has changed through the years; however, the transition is always seamless and their willingness to partner, their talent and their innovation for expanding built environment work has remained constant. We value the relationships we have built with all staff past and present. We have shared resources, rewards, vision and successes with the confidence that together we making a difference in helping people eat smart and move more. We celebrate the ALBD Team! Back to Top


Maxine Hayes

Maxine Hayes_0Washington State Health Officer, Department of Health

I had the privilege of working on the Active Living by Design National Advisory Committee at the program’s inception and have watched this work evolve into a dynamic movement across the country. The movement was timely. The vision of “healthy communities where routine physical activity and healthy eating are accessible, easy and affordable to everyone” was woven into many aspects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) legislation, which became federal law.

Washington State is now busy implementing the Affordable Care Act and is using many lessons learned from Active Living By Design to build a healthier state. Our partners in local and tribal communities all across our state are busy changing policies, systems, and environments using methods and concepts first tested by Active Living by Design grantees ten years ago. Communities are truly being transformed into healthier places for everyone.

Happy 10th Anniversary, Active Living By Design and “thank you” Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for your investment in this work, which will continue to reap benefits for decades to come. Back to Top


Mildred Thompson

Mildred Thompson_0Director, PolicyLink Center for Health Equity and Place

What I am most proud of is the range of really important Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities (HKHC) interventions underway across the country. Having all of these amazing local success stories be able see themselves, not as just a singular entity trying to make local changes, but viewing themselves as part of a national movement working to meaningfully change environments, is a significant accomplishment. Knowing that HKHC was informed by the rich and solid foundation created through your earlier work with Active Living By Design, only strengthened the infrastructure of HKHC. Another wonderful accomplishment was your ability to assemble such a smart and likable staff, who values hard work but believes also in a balanced life (as evidenced by the great partying after al full day’s work)! All the best as you gracefully move into the next phase of work. Back to Top


Kathy Higgins

Kathy HigginsPresident, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation is proud to have the opportunity to partner with Active Living By Design. Having esteemed national expertise in our own backyard has been an incredible resource to help make us better grantmakers – investing in aspects of partnerships, promotion, programs, policy, and physical changes to help improve the health and well-being of North Carolinians. Active Living By Design led the technical assistance on our Fit Together grant program to increase physical activity in rural communities and is now leading our learning network of food system grantees to help increase access to healthy food. Their knowledge, professionalism, and expertise is unparalleled. Back to Top


Monica Vinluan

Monica Vinluan_0Project Direct
Healthier Communities Initiatives, YMCA of the USA

The entire healthy communities movement has Active Living By Design to thank. Without their vision, their amazing talent, and the commitment of the communities the program has engaged, we would not be where we are today.

ALBD has been a pioneer in helping community leaders engage non-traditional partners, coaching them to make big changes, and guiding them to demonstrate their impact and success. The decade of community change work and the success of the program has set the bar for other programs and communities to follow. In addition to the impact that their work has had in communities around the country, the ALBD team has also had a tremendous impact on other national organizations striving to do similar things in other communities. The ALBD staff have helped to design and frame technical assistance, communications, and evaluation of this work not just for their own sites, but for dozens of other organizations. Back to Top


Deb Hubsmith

Deb Hubsmith_0Director, Safe Routes to School National Partnership

Congratulations to Active Living By Design for 10 years of stunning service and success! Through their approach of supporting community-led projects, Active Living By Design has developed dozens of examples through sites across the country demonstrating how policy change and improvements to the built environment engage local residents in more physical activity and healthy eating. Through their leadership by example, Active Living By Design has enabled communities to fulfill their dreams, while also advancing the body of scientific evidence. Active Living By Design has also always participated in national partnerships to help advance the overall movement in our collective efforts to focus on policy, prevention, partnerships and system-based approaches. Their sites and their staff began working on Safe Routes to School early-on, and Active Living By Design has served on the Steering Committee of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership since our inception. Active Living By Design – thank you! Please take a bow! Back to Top