Julie Ralston AokiJoelle Lester

The Public Health Law Center is proud to announce that Julie Ralston Aoki is the Center’s first Director of Healthy Eating and Active Living, and Joelle Lester has been named the new Director of Tobacco Control. As the program directors, Ralston Aoki and Lester are providing strategic leadership for the Center’s growing practice areas, which focus on reducing preventable chronic disease in the U.S.

Both Ralston Aoki and Lester have been with the Center in senior positions for several years before their promotions, and have a strong track record of working with public health professionals and advocates around the country to create positive policy change. As the scope of the Center’s work gets larger, we are thrilled that they are able to help us both strengthen what we do well, and expand our capabilities.

“This represents a turning point for the Public Health Law Center,” said Doug Blanke, Executive Director of the Public Health Law Center. “Julie and Joelle are dynamic, visionary leaders committed to taking our work in exciting new directions, building on our partnerships with health leaders nationwide. Already, they are deepening our commitment to health equity, and to ensuring that, in all our work, health and justice go hand in hand.”

Ralston Aoki was named to the newly-created Healthy Eating and Active Living Director position earlier this year. She has two decades of experience in developing public policy for the public good, and has worked with Tribal, state, and local communities in Minnesota and across the country, specializing in laws and policies supporting access to healthy food, improving the nutritional quality of foods available in public settings, and promoting health equity. Before joining the Public Health Law Center, Ralston Aoki served as an assistant attorney general with the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office, working on consumer protection and antitrust issues.

Lester previously led the Consortium’s FDA Tobacco Project, encouraging the Food and Drug Administration to enact the strongest possible tobacco regulations, and oversaw the efforts to convene national leaders around bold policy options to end the tobacco epidemic. She also provided legal technical assistance and litigation support on a wide range of tobacco control policy issues. Before joining the Public Health Law Center, Lester worked as a litigation associate at the Minneapolis firm of McGrann Shea Carnival Straughn & Lamb, Chartered.

The Public Health Law Center helps create communities where everyone can be healthy. We empower our partners to transform their environments by eliminating commercial tobacco, promoting healthy food, and encouraging active lifestyles. We do that by providing legal and strategic support to local and state health departments, health advocacy organizations, attorneys working on public health issues, and community coalitions around the country. 


October 9, 2017