Leslie Mikkelsen, Managing Director
“I’ve always had a challenge with supporting incremental change when I understand the fundamental roots of issues, so finding prevention as a field and a methodology was marvelous.”
Leslie Mikkelsen serves on the Prevention Institute senior management team and has helped shape the conceptual work of the organization since 1999. Leslie directs PI’s Health System Transformation team, focused on promoting community-level prevention through the development of model practices for healthcare-community partnerships, and policies and payment mechanisms to support these practices. This includes supporting community and rural health centers in adopting Community-Centered Health Homes, a model developed by Prevention Institute, which outlines how healthcare systems can partner with communities to improve community conditions that shape population health.
“My mom was a civil rights activist. I was schooled on the importance of being part of making the world a better place, and so I went into public health … From an early age, I have cared about creating communities where everyone has an opportunity to be happy, healthy, thriving … Public health is a great field to combine my commitment to equity with my passion for health.”
Leslie develops tools and materials to support local and state initiatives and guides government agencies, foundations, and community organizations throughout the country on effective environmental approaches, coalition building, and interdisciplinary partnerships. She provides strategic support to the Convergence Partnership, a national collaboration of foundations that uses joint action and policy and practice changes at local, state, regional, and national levels to promote their vision of Healthy People, Healthy Places. She co-founded and served as project director for the Strategic Alliance for Healthy Food and Activity Environments, a California coalition of advocates that advanced an environmental change agenda to influence state legislation. The agenda was incorporated into the Governor’s California Obesity Prevention Plan. The plan was informed by Prevention Institute’s work highlighting the role of corporate and government practices in shaping food and activity environments.
Leslie has led national trainings and technical assistance on community approaches to chronic disease prevention, including for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) and Community Transformation Grant (CTG) initiatives. Her work at Prevention Institute builds on extensive prior experience in the field of food assistance and nutrition.
At the Alameda County Foodbank, Leslie was principal investigator on two key household surveys of soup kitchen and food pantry clients, Voices of Hunger (1995) and Hunger: Faces & Facts (1998), and initiated the Alameda County Community Food Bank Hunger Education and Action Program to mobilize community support for anti-hunger policies. She assisted in establishing a food referral hotline that refers people to emergency food pantries and appropriate federal nutrition programs.
“I eventually started what we called the Hunger Education and Advocacy Program to raise awareness around the root causes of hunger … my goal in working with the network of community organizations that were using the Food Bank is that we would come up with a set of recommendations that included upstream issues.”
Over the past two decades, Leslie has authored and contributed to key Prevention Institute publications, including Back to Our Roots: Catalyzing Community Action for Mental Health and Wellbeing (October 2017); Disrupting the Pathway—A Prevention Approach to Medical High Utilization (May 2016); The Community-Centered Health Homes Model: Updates & Learnings (December 2015); and Accountable Communities for Health: Opportunities and Recommendations (July 2015). She was a contributing writer and researcher for A Practitioner's Guide for Advancing Health Equity: Community Strategies for Preventing Chronic Disease, published by the CDC in 2014.
Leslie is an experienced presenter at conferences and workshops on a range of public health issues and on multisectoral, multi-disciplinary approaches to primary prevention and other measures to promote community wellbeing and health equity.
Leslie is a registered dietitian and holds a master’s degree in public health from the University of California, Berkeley. She holds two bachelor’s degrees, in political science and nutrition and food science, also from UC Berkeley.