October 17, 2017

Shauneequa Owusu is a senior vice president at ChangeLab Solutions, where she leads the development of strategies and approaches to improve the health of communities across the nation. 
Shauneequa’s passion for urban policy and community development has fueled her work in a range of settings from local government to national nonprofits. She was drawn to join ChangeLab Solutions because of our multidisciplinary approach to developing policy solutions. “Law and policy leverage change; they are at the core of everything,” she states.
Shauneequa leads our new project, Building Healthy, Equitable Communities for Children & Families, which is funded by a generous grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Building on ChangeLab Solutions’ long-standing efforts in chronic disease prevention and rooted in health equity, this program broadens our work to address the social determinants of health and bring our expertise and capacity-building services to help change laws, policies, systems, and institutions in ways that will improve the health of children, their families, and the communities they live in. “We are pleased to have the foundation as our partner, especially on equity,” says Shauneequa. “Our goal is to create health-promoting environments, systems, and social and economic conditions for all families.” 
When asked what this project means to her, Shauneequa shares, “The challenges that children and families face are challenges that have been faced by me and my family, as well as many others, especially people who are marginalized. Thinking of one’s health is a luxury when there are pressing issues such as how to pay rent on time, buy food for your family, fix your car to get to work, or obtain affordable, safe child care. Everyday people do not think about their day to day in terms of policies; they rely on their experience. It is our job at ChangeLab Solutions to understand those experiences and to develop solutions that facilitate improved experiences and translate to better health for all.”  
Over 18 months, ChangeLab Solutions will work with a network of local governments and community-based organizations. We will develop new products, deliver tailored technical assistance, and work intensively with a cohort of 8 selected communities to build their capacity to use the tools of law and policy to build healthy, equitable communities. Given the project’s focus on health equity, topics include food insecurity, the built environment, public financing, maternal and family wellness, or community and school health.
The 8 communities in the cohort comprise a diverse cross section of the United States, representing the West, Midwest, Northeast, and South as well as rural, urban, suburban, and tribal communities.
“Communities know what they need,” Shauneequa says. “They have the solution—or at least part of it. Some of the most innovative solutions come from people at the local level, especially those working at the margins. The goal is to demonstrate the uniqueness and differences in how these communities address their needs and implement solutions, not the commonalities. It’s in the identification of uniqueness and differences that innovative practices are unearthed.” 
Read more about Shauneequa and her work to improve the health of children, families, and communities. Learn more about how ChangeLab Solutions can help improve the health of children and families in your community, and support our work to build healthy communities for all!

October 17, 2017

California Governor Jerry Brown has signed Assembly Bill 841, which prohibits schools from marketing foods that cannot be sold or served in those schools. The addition to the state education code is based on the idea that unhealthy foods that may not be served to students should not be advertised to them, either. The law also prohibits schools from participating in corporate incentive programs that reward students with free or discounted foods or beverages that do not comply with applicable nutritional standards such as the USDA Smart Snacks in School regulations.

Marketing of junk food to children is big business. The Federal Trade Commission has reported that companies spend $149 million annually on food marketing in schools. Such marketing adversely affects students’ eating habits, which are tied to their health and their academic success.

AB 841 was substantially based on a model policy created by ChangeLab Solutions. We also acknowledge and thank the American Heart Association and Public Health Advocates for their instrumental role in the passage of AB 841.

The passage of AB 841 makes California one of the first states to pass legislation addressing the marketing of unhealthy foods to children in schools. This law will help ensure that students receive consistent messages from their schools about the importance of proper nutrition as well as reinforce parents’ efforts to help their children choose healthy foods. In addition, helping students make healthy food choices will result in healthier students who are better able to thrive academically.

ChangeLab Solutions has created a fact sheet on restricting unhealthy food marketing in schools as well as model policies with language for district-level policies and state-level statutes that can be tailored to the needs of particular jurisdictions and then adopted by school boards, state boards of education, or state legislatures. Contact us to learn more about how to regulate marketing of unhealthy foods to children in your schools!

September 8, 2017

The Free School Lunch for All initiative now makes lunch free for every public school student in New York City. “We know that students cannot learn or thrive in school if they are hungry all day,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Free school lunch will not only ensure that every kid in New York City has the fuel they need to succeed but also further our goal of providing an excellent and equitable education for all students.”

The initiative is an important step in removing the stigma associated with free lunch eligibility. Approximately 75% of New York City public school students are eligible for free or reduced-priced lunches, yet some forgo the school lunch program out of fear of being labeled “poor” and bullied, preferring instead to go hungry. “A free school lunch isn’t really free if students must reveal their socioeconomic status to their classmates in order to eat,” said Councilmember Vanessa L. Gibson. “By making lunch truly free for 100% of our students in all of our public schools, we are removing any remaining stigma attached to this important program and making sure that for New York City Schools kids, hunger isn’t a barrier to academic success.”

Serving over 1.1 million students, the initiative is now the largest universal free lunch program in the nation. Other major cities leading the way include Boston, Chicago, Detroit, and Dallas. ChangeLab applauds NYC DOE’s efforts toensure that all students are healthy and ready to learn. To learn more about creating healthier, thriving school environments, contact us or check out our resources.

March 15, 2017

Communities with many tobacco stores — and many stores near one another — often bear the brunt of tobacco use. Greater concentration and higher numbers of tobacco retailers, as well as retailers’ proximity to schools, have been associated with higher rates of youth smoking, higher rates of cigarettes smoked per day, and lower rates of quitting. Low-income areas and areas with many African American or Latino residents often have more tobacco stores — and more of them packed together. Not surprisingly, these communities suffer most from the negative health effects associated with tobacco use.

Reducing the density and number of tobacco retailers is a promising strategy for decreasing tobacco use, curbing exposure to tobacco marketing, and promoting health equity. We partnered with to develop an easy-to-use infographic, How to Reduce Tobacco Retailer Density and Why, to illustrate 5 ways communities can reduce the number and density of local tobacco stores. Residents, advocates, and decisionmakers can use this infographic to learn why addressing tobacco retailer density is important and to help them pick the best strategies for their community.

Check out the infographic and our related resource, the Tobacco Retailer Licensing Playbook. We are also available to provide technical assistance to state health departments working on tobacco retailer density or other tobacco control strategies through tobacco retailer licensing. To stay current on our tobacco work, subscribe to our emails and contact us to learn more!

How to reduce tobacco retailer density - an infographic

February 13, 2017

Leon Andrews is the director of the Race, Equity, and Leadership (REAL) initiative at the National League of Cities. He joined our Board of Directors in 2010 and became the Chair of the Board of Directors in 2015.
“I joined the ChangeLab Solutions Board because the work the organization does aligns with my work at the National League of Cities. ChangeLab Solutions offers an incredible array of tools, resources, and other assets to our elected officials, and I see that in real time,” said Andrews. “I was very excited about the opportunity to be part of an organization that is doing this work—translating law and policy into meaningful local change.”
Since joining our Board, Andrews has been inspired by the organization’s commitment to improving health and equity. “As an organization, we’re being intentional about racial equity at all levels and explicit about the important role it plays in all issues related to health,” said Andrews. “And during this time, I’m excited that we are working to define the field, not just waiting to see where it goes. We’re pushing others to recognize that health is not just about childhood obesity or tobacco use. It requires us to look at environmental factors and the social determinants of health, and work intentionally and comprehensively toward our goals.”
Andrews explained that one of ChangeLab Solutions’ strengths is putting practical resources into the hands of people on the ground. “ChangeLab Solutions makes life easier for cities that don’t have a full research department, policy branch, or team of lawyers that can really pull together what is needed to implement good policy,” said Andrews. “Our staff design real tools that not only work for a Los Angeles, a New York, or a Chicago, but also work in a Caldwell, Idaho, or a Tualatin, Oregon, or an Itta Bena, Mississippi.”
“During his tenure, Leon Andrews has brought a wealth of knowledge and bold thinking to our organization’s leadership,” said Marice Ashe, founder and CEO of ChangeLab Solutions. “He has helped us identify where we need to go and how we can get there. His support and guidance have been invaluable, and we’re proud to have him in our corner.”
Visit our Board of Directors page to learn more about Andrews and our other leaders! And find out how you can support our work with cities nationwide.