Of course everyone took a walk at the recent HEAL Zones Learning Community event. Resident leaders, youth leaders, and moms with kids in tow–all toured the streets of Downtown Long Beach noting inspiring ways one city has made the choice to be healthy and fit a more integrated part of daily life.
The outing, led by Community Partners project Walk Long Beach, was a most fitting way to flesh out a full-day gathering of community members and leaders involved with Southern California Kaiser Permanente’s HEAL Zones Initiative. It’s an ambitious effort to engage residents in collaboration with civic and community leaders to make their communities healthier and more active. This is Community Partners’ sixth year working in partnership with Kaiser Permanente to manage the initiative and help build resident capacity in 10 communities across Southern California.
The event offers a way for the different zone communities to be motivated and inspired, form supportive relationships, build leadership and advocacy skills, and learn from one another – about how they are working with local partners, advocating at the state level, and bringing young people in to help create change in their neighborhoods.
“(This) is about our connections with each other, sharing a dialogue, and working together to figure out how we can make our communities better … not just for us, but for our children,” said Lemon Grove Mayor Racquel Vasquez in her address to the gathering. “And then bringing them along so they can pick up the charge and we can pass the baton.”
An ultimate goal of the initiative is to enable communities to take on this work for themselves. Toward that end, said program manager Arpine Shakhbandaryan, youth and resident leaders took on a greater role in designing and organizing the event sessions, which “really created a lot of energy.”
“Community empowerment means building solutions that are rooted in and centered around the people in the community,” noted Long Beach Vice Mayor Rex Richardson, who also spoke at the event about his community’s involvement.