NEW YORK, N.Y. – The Alliance for a Healthier Generation (Healthier Generation), one of the nation’s preeminent children’s health organizations, recently named prominent health care executive and philanthropic leader Kathy Higgins to serve as the chief executive officer (CEO). Founded in 2005 by the American Heart Association and the Clinton Foundation, Healthier Generation works with tens of thousands of schools, communities and businesses nationwide to address critical child and adolescent health issues – including nutrition, physical activity, social-emotional health and sleep.
Higgins succeeds Dr. Howell Wechsler, who retired in October 2018 after five years leading the organization’s programmatic and virtual delivery expansion, enabling it to have a profound and holistic impact on children’s health.
The announcement coincides with the appointment of current Healthier Generation Board Member Dave Josserand to chairman of the board. Josserand recently retired from the Dalton Agency, a national advertising and public-relations firm, where he was a partner and division president for more than 20 years.
He has served on Healthier Generation’s Board of Directors since 2016 and brings over 35 years of private sector marketing, advertising and broadcasting experience to this new leadership role.
“The Board and I welcome Kathy as a seasoned business executive and child health advocate who can successfully lead Healthier Generation’s mission through this new and exciting chapter of the organization’s development,” said newly appointed Board Chairman Dave Josserand. “Kathy is uniquely qualified to fortify and grow Healthier Generation’s evidenced-based programs, given her demonstrated public health leadership and strong business acumen, combined with her personal passion for the cause.”
“It is an honor to join such a talented group of people committed to creating healthier environments where our children can learn and thrive,” said Higgins. “In my own state of North Carolina, I witnessed firsthand the profound impact of Healthier Generation’s work with schools and companies like my own – leading innovative systems-wide and sector-wide solutions to improve health outcomes for kids and especially high-need populations.
There has never been a more important time to support the whole health and development of our youth and adolescents through Healthier Generation’s critical mission. I bring to this role a lengthy career and lifelong commitment to advancing health equity. Every child deserves a healthy future—and Healthier Generation’s dedicated team and I will not stop until that vision is a reality.”
Higgins joins Healthier Generation following more than 30 years at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina where her roles span leading public health engagement, corporate communications, community relations, and corporate affairs. In 2000, Higgins led the launch of the Blue Cross NC Foundation.
As president and CEO of the Blue Cross NC Foundation, Higgins led unprecedented growth, including the strategic investment of more than $150 million into North Carolina communities through more than 1,000 grants to improve the health of vulnerable populations, support physical activity and nutrition programs, and help nonprofit groups improve their organizational capacity.
Higgins was also a significant advocate in Blue Cross NC’s early adoption of Healthier Generation’s decade-long innovative insurance benefit program, designed to encourage clinicians to extend weight management and obesity prevention services to kids and families. In her new role, Higgins will continue her advocacy for solutions that bolster positive youth development by leading Healthier Generation’s initiatives that promote systemic and equitable approaches to improving the health and well-being of children nationwide.
“This leadership role is a natural fit for Kathy’s skills and passion for improving children’s health,” said Dr. Patrick Conway, president and CEO of Blue Cross NC. “Her ability to galvanize cross-sector stakeholders to improve children’s health will fuel her success at the helm of Healthier Generation. We look forward to the immediate impact her passion and creativity will bring to millions of children benefiting from Healthier Generation’s nationwide footprint.”
In addition to her extensive business background, Higgins has engaged in significant community leadership throughout her career and has served on numerous state and national boards, including co-leading the NC Institute of Medicine Taskforce on Childhood Obesity Prevention; being appointed by North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper to serve on the Governor’s Council for Early Childhood Development; and earning recognition from Diversity Journal as a “Women Worth Watching” award winner. She also serves on the boards of the Carolina Hurricanes Foundation (chair), the Triangle Area YMCA and the Underwood Foundation.
Among her many honors and distinctions, she has been named both an Eisenhower Fellow and Fulbright Senior Scholar, for which she was selected to study health care and philanthropy in New Zealand and Australia. Higgins holds a bachelor’s degree in education from West Virginia Wesleyan College and completed her master’s work in community health education at Virginia Tech. She currently resides in Raleigh, North Carolina and is the mother to ten-year-old twin boys.
As CEO, Higgins will lead Healthier Generation’s network of nearly 100 professional staff in 30 states and the District of Columbia working to make the healthy choice the easy choice for all children, including:
• Supporting up to 42,000 schools reaching 25 million students to create healthier learning environments where all children can thrive in all 50 states and the District of Columbia
• Assisting up to 3,500 out-of-school time sites in delivering healthier afterschool programming for over 509,000 kids nationwide
• Working with more than 120 companies to improve their individual and industry-wide business practices to improve children’s health
• Driving strategic collaboration with the business sector at the national and local levels to shape supply, build demand and improve access to healthier foods and beverages
• Leveraging a robust online platform and expansion in digital technologies to improve program experience and deliver powerful marketing programs and campaigns that raise awareness and drive action toward healthier futures for all children