Introducing Ashley Emerson, Health In Harmony's new Program Director

Last month, we welcomed Ashley Emerson as Health In Harmony's new Program Director. With a Masters in International Development, Community, and Environment from Clark University and years of experience leading and developing international programs around the world, we are thrilled to have her on the team. And to give you the chance to get to her know too, we sat down with her this week for an interview.

What brought you to Health In Harmony?

I was fascinated with HIH and their approach to community-driven, planetary health solutions. I have a passion for working at the intersection of human and environmental health and an understanding that many of our global challenges are highly interdependent and connected -- therefore, solutions must also be intersectional in nature -- and HIH does just that.

I have spent most of my career in international development where I have seen isolated "solutions" that actually lead to more problems through short-term project-based interventions. Naturally in international development work you meet many brilliant, resilient, and innovative creatives; these are the local people who not only know the most about their communities, but know what the best solutions are. The Radical Listening methodology, research approach, and ability to work through creating true human connections also interested me. Not to mention the incredible staff and ASRI team in Indonesia, the impressively supportive Board, and the community behind this movement!

What inspires you about our planetary health mission?

I'm inspired by the fact that Health In Harmony doesn’t subscribe to any academic framework, political agenda, or passing trend. We have been doing this work for over 10 years and we have impressive results to demonstrate our impact. In fact, our work in Borneo has a direct impact on the air I breathe, the emissions I contribute to, and overall future of a healthy planet. I could go on about they way HIH supports women and girls, sequestration and agro forestry ambitions, and our impact on the health of thousands of people, but you get the gist…it all inspires me!

Can you share some of your goals for your work at HIH?

My first goal over the next six months is to support replication of the HIH approach in two new high-ecological-value locations to test the efficacy and potential for global replication. We are an ambitious team, driven by the urgency of human and environmental health needs, so I feel confident in our ability to do this. My next goal is to open the Planetary Health Training Center, which will house our international travel and field-experience programs, research and academic partnerships, among other new initiatives. I won’t bore you with research, monitoring and evaluation development, but I get seriously excited about these initiatives too! Most importantly, my goal is to support our incredible team at HIH and work hand-in-hand with our team at ASRI since they are the real change makers!

In May, you'll be going to Indonesia for the first time to see our pilot program Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI) in action. What do you hope to accomplish while you're there?

I am so excited and honored to spend time with ASRI for the month of May. I have a long list of to-do’s including working on our first replication site, gathering MOU’s, and supporting the various students who will be there learning and researching. Most importantly, I hope to learn from the ASRI team, to better understand the intricacies of our programs and what makes them so successful, and I would be thrilled to see some of the charismatic megafauna that thrive in the rain forest there. (PS. I'll be sharing live updates from my trip, so be sure to follow along on Facebook and Instagram!)

Just for fun: what is your favorite breakfast food?

Any good breakfast starts with a strong cup of coffee! My favorite brunch dish, however, is chilaquiles with some Hot Mamma salsa at the Skyline Tavern here in Portland. Good thing Forest Park is right across the street! A jaunt on Wildwood trail is the perfect way to reconnect with nature right here in our backyard!

Anything else you’d like to share?

We always love visitors and we'd like to know what other folks are up to in the Planetary Health arena. And if you are lucky enough to swing by the Health In Harmony office on a day when my little 16 year old dog Pele is there…you may never leave!


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