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ECFRPC's Michelle Morrison finds new insights in New Mexico at part of ULI's Health Leaders Network

Morrison gained insights from experts in New Mexico and worldwide as part of the highly prestigious Urban Land Institute Health Leaders Network that she joined earlier this year

A group of people in front of a Santa Fe train caboose
ULI's Health Leaders Network fifth cohort in New Mexico

Orlando, FL - In April, we announced that Michelle Morrison, a Planner II at the ECFRPC, was selected as part of the fifth cohort of Urban Land Institute’s Health Leaders Network. The highly prestigious network saw just twenty-seven professionals worldwide selected for this latest cohort.

Recently, Morrison traveled to New Mexico for a hands-on summit with local land use leaders, including nearby indigenous peoples. “As land use professional, I was moved by the deep connection to and respect for the land shown by indigenous people. In our New Mexico forum, much of our training included Native Americans,” explains Morrison. “They always introduced themselves with a short bio in their native language followed by an English translation. This helped reinforce their culture, and their insight reminded me of the value of land from a cultural heritage perspective in addition to land’s economic and aesthetic values.”

A group listen to a speaker in the adobe style room. A slide can be seen on a project screen that reads, 'Health Equity in New Mexico.'

According to Morrison, this hyperlocal focus was augmented by global perspectives thanks to the several international members in the cohort providing unique perspectives on the challenges land-use professionals face. “The 27-member cohort consists of professionals from a variety of disciplines – planning, development, design, public health, and academia – practicing across the nation and Europe. We are each passionate about dramatically improving health outcomes in our communities and share insight gained from work in our unique locales. Our international members from England, Germany, and the Netherlands emphasized a more global approach during our discussions. Where we (U.S. residents) often compare our work to other regions and states, they compare countries. As many of us share similar challenges, looking abroad for best practices and case studies can be helpful.”

Morrison is quick to note that along with international and indigenous insights, the cohort sought lessons learned from Florida’s unique perspectives. These challenges are not unique to our region or state, with Morrison noting Florida can be a leader in such discussions thanks to the unique history of growth in the state. “The Network gains insight and ideas from our region and state as Florida hosts a rapidly growing population and an ever-changing built environment. We are forced to address challenges ranging from dangerous traffic conditions to extreme weather events and for more people, both residents and tourists alike.”

Network participation deepened Morrison’s understanding of health equity through workshops, field trips, podcasts, small group discussions, brainstorming sessions, and presentations about our own work. In addition, the cohort opted to create a Health & Equity Toolbox consisting of project use cases, recommended tools for health and equity, and a sample value statement. The project is ongoing and will soon be released by ULI.

Crediting the experience with providing a broader lens that she can use to address local land-use issues more accurately; Morrison remains committed to the Health Leaders Network and exciting for new opportunities afforded to its members. “My knowledge and understanding of health equity have grown in depth and breadth as a result of this 9-month leadership experience focusing on the intersection between health, social equity, and the built environment. Membership in the Network is lifelong! Many planning projects start with researching best practices and case studies. I’m exchanging ideas with cohort members looking at health equity through a climate change lens at the federal and state level.”

A group of people standing on the Detroit riverwalk with the GM building in the background.
Earlier this year, Morrison traveled to Detroit for the initial face-to-face meeting of the fifth cohort.


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