SCAG Training Program: “Embedding Health and Equity into Southern California’s Transportation Plan”

Healthy Communities through Design: photo credit: ClimatePlan

Yesterday, I attended SCAG’s training program, “Embedding Health and Equity into Southern California’s Transportation Plan.”  The program was intended to help individuals engage in SB 375 issues along with discussing how public health advocates can embed health, safety, and equity into long-term transportation planning.  It was well attended, primarily by individuals working in public health and/or planning, but also by several concerned citizens who were interested in becoming more involved in the health and safety of their communities.

The first speaker, Dr. Richard Jackson from UCLA, spoke about the increase in asthma and respiratory diseases caused by air pollution in our cities.  He is an advocate for reducing greenhouse gases in order to minimize global warming, but also to increase the health and wellness of our communities.  Southern California’s population continues to expand and steps that we take now, such as encouraging the greater use of public transit, walking, and bicycling, will allow for healthy growth in the long run.  Dr. Jackson is a passionate supporter of rethinking design to improve the health of our communities.  He will be showcased in a future PBS documentary series focused on the effects of urban design on healthy communities.

Pam O’Connor, SCAG President and City Councilmember of the City of Santa Monica, along with the Executive Director of SCAG, Hasan Ikhrata, discussed with the group the involvement of SCAG in SB 375 and answered any questions raised, primarily focused on how the policy will be implemented into different communities.  They detailed how SCAG is run and managed and let us know how each of our organizations could be involved in the SB 375 process.

Other speakers, including Stewart Cohen from Transform and Autumn Bernstein from ClimatePlan, showcased how their respective organizations were involved in the SB 375 process.  They talked most about transportation and the usefulness of public transportation in cities such as Los Angeles.  They encouraged walking and biking between home, work, errands, entertainment, and school and mentioned which organizations who are currently advocating for this need, including Safe Routes to School.

The training was very useful in beginning to create dialogue between individuals of similar but separate state/planning/environmental organizations.  The speakers and small group discussions helped us all learn of the challenges, opportunities, and strategies needed in order to fully implement SB 375 elements into our communities.  They highlighted that it will not be a quick and easy transition to create these healthy communities, but we all can do our part to make sure that we succeed by working with other organizations and community members to accomplish a mutual goal.  As one speaker noted, “The future is now.”

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