PlanningSchoolThis June, nearly 30 members of the East County Regional Group (ECRG) graduated from a six-month training program on land use policy organized by First 5 Contra Costa, Contra Costa Health Services, Pacific Institute, and Regional Asthma Management and Prevention (RAMP). The project was funded by Kaiser Permanente and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

The Land Use Planning School was the first of its kind in the region to train community residents on important land use concepts and advocacy skills to promote healthier and safer communities for children and families. The school consisted of six sessions covering land use equity, zoning, pollution, food access, park planning, campaign development, and messaging/strategic communication. Each session included expert guest speakers from the Bay Area as well as skits, games, and other dynamic learning exercises.

“It was inspiring to see the ECRG members increase their confidence and advocacy skills to impact land use decisions that shape the health and safety of young children and low-income families,” said Rhea Elina Laughlin, First 5 Contra Costa’s Community Engagement Program Officer. “They are ready to use their knowledge and skills, which were already strong, to participate in land use decision-making and to create more equitable, healthy communities.”

The HuddleTo that end, the Regional Group plans to apply their new skills to improve public parks in East County. After assessing 60 locations, Regional Group members found that improved safety, play equipment, and maintenance are particularly needed in parks located in low-income neighborhoods. ECRG members will share their park findings and recommendations with park and recreation staff in each city this fall.

The success of the school has also made it a model. Contra Costa Health Services will be training other organizations throughout the county this fall using the group’s curricula, and other health departments throughout the region are exploring starting their own schools.

To learn more about the East County Regional Group or Planning School, contact Rhea Laughlin (925) 771-7312.

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