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Remembering Chris Kochtitzky

By Phil Bors on June 30th, 2020

On May 3, 2020, advocates for active transportation and health equity lost an inspiring, behind-the-scenes leader.

Chris Kochtitzky was a Senior Advisor at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity in the Physical Activity Branch. He also served as a guide and influencer of the annual Walkability Action Institute (WAI) and Community of Practice, both of which have led to more active communities and partnerships across the country since 2015.

I got to know Chris while co-facilitating the Community of Practice as part of Healthy Places by Design’s support for the WAI. After Chris’ passing, I realized that he had had a huge impact beyond our network of walkability advocates—he had also influenced the work of professionals in public health, planning, engineering, and other sectors across the country.

Within a few weeks, Chris’ friends and CDC colleagues created the Chris Kochtitzky Memorial Fund and organized a virtual memorial service where nearly 400 joined in grief, reflection, and celebration of his legacy. Chris’ background and contribution were highlighted in this poignant post on CDC’s website, which describes his parents’ roles as justice activists in Jackson, MS during the civil rights era.

Beginning his long career at CDC in 1992, Chris went on to serve in various environmental health advisor roles and made his way to the healthy community team. As a planner by training in the nation’s premier public health agency, Chris was a critical bridge builder, networker, and an early contributor to CDC’s built environment and health initiatives. Most recently, he was a key organizer for the Transportation Research Board (TRB)’s Conference on Health and Active Transportation. His work in this area influenced TRB’s decision to create a Committee on Transportation and Health in February, which was a seminal moment in the field.

Chris was compelled to gather, understand, and share the latest findings from public health, planning, and transportation research. He had a generous habit of sending along reports, best practices, and invitations to contribute to consensus statements, collaborative processes, and calls to action. On my way to join Chris and others at a December 2019 TRB summit on innovation in active transportation, I discovered that he had sent me a detailed literature review on the topic, possibly from his own collection. I had no idea I needed homework going into this meeting but was so glad I had this as a reference. Chris knew what I needed before I did.

I am better off for having met, learned from, and collaborated with Chris. And I’m confident that our communities are healthier and more equitable because of his intellect, passion for learning, and how he cared for those around him.

 

Image description: Phil Bors, Chris Kochtitzky, and Mark Fenton in December 2019

Author
Phil Bors
Phil Bors

Technical Assistance Director

Generous advisor, weeknight advocate, and active weekender.