Culture and Environment
Risa Wilkerson, MA
Executive Director, Healthy Places by Design
Health begins not just where we work, but also where we live, learn, and play. Many related factors influence our ability to make healthy choices, including the social and the physical environments around us—in other words, our community. Businesses that engage in creating stronger, healthier communities gain stronger, healthier, and more productive employees and families, in addition to creating economic conditions that are more conducive to business growth. This session will explore the key dimensions of a healthy community necessary for health and wellbeing. Case studies will be shared of hospitals, universities, and other employers who are collaborating to improve community conditions by developing equitable food systems, quality and affordable housing, safer neighborhoods, quality education, and more. Action steps for starting and advancing business investments in community health will be described.
Risa Wilkerson is Executive Director of Healthy Places by Design. She provides overarching leadership and strategic vision to fulfill the organization’s mission of creating community-led change by working with local, state, and national partners to build a culture of active living and healthy eating. Risa has been connected to the organization since 2002, when she was a grantee of the Active Living by Design initiative. She joined the team in 2008 as Senior Project Officer, and provided coaching, technical assistance, and grant oversight to multidisciplinary community-based partnerships across the country, with a focus on improving health through policy, systems, and environmental change strategies. From 2014-2015, she also served as Healthy Places by Design’s Marketing and Communications Director and, subsequently, Associate Executive Director.
Risa brings wide-ranging experience in coalition building, community assessment, public health program planning and implementation, grant writing, and nonprofit management. She provides leadership to the field by serving as the Safe Routes to School National Partnership’s Board Chair, as a sector chair to the National Physical Activity Plan, and as a member of the Prescription for Activity Task Force.
Before moving to North Carolina, Risa was the Vice President of Active Communities for the Michigan Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness, Health and Sports, where she led project teams in a statewide effort to create active communities. Risa holds an M.A. in Communication from Michigan State University. She is also an alumna of the University of South Carolina’s Physical Activity and Public Health Course, a training program sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
At home, Risa loves to spend time with her husband, Doug, go for runs, kayak North Carolina’s beautiful rivers and lakes, read, write, and hang out with her children and grandchild.