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  • Bruce Baker

Community Conversation Seeks to Identify Quality of Life Priorities

About 20 Takoma Park and Long Branch residents attended a community conversation where they shared their opinions on health and potential quality of life improvements at the Takoma Park Community Center on March 14. Community Health and Empowerment through Education and Research (CHEER) hosted the community discussion for which Healthy Montgomery put together a series of exercises for participants. The gathering was noted as being one of the most diverse gatherings of residents to come together for one event.

Residents were given a worksheet and asked to select two choices out of a list of 13 as their opinion of the biggest priorities for change and improvement. Some of the choices included “Care and Support for Senior Residents,” “Education,” “Housing (affordability, quality),” and “Medical, Dental and Mental Health Care.” See the complete list below. Residents broke out into three small groups of six or seven residents and discussed their personal priorities and were asked to pick the top two of the group and discuss why they were so important to them. All of the groups had trouble deciding on just two priorities, and several people suggested grouping some of the options together to form one category for a more encompassing situation.

The first group selected “Medical, Dental and Mental Health Care” as their top priority, justifying that without having a healthy mind and body, individuals are not able to function to fulfill the other items on the list. Their second priority was “Employment, Job Training and Working Conditions,” saying that individuals need jobs to make money, even minimum wage, to be able to live and survive. Because the group had several other high-listed priorities, they said “Care and Support for Senior Residents” was a very close third priority.

The second group selected “Housing (affordability, quality)” as their top priority because everyone needs somewhere to live. When renting, residents worry about increases in costs, and it makes them uncomfortable with their living expenses when they are not sure about what next year’s rent may be. The second priority grouped together “Youth and Young Adult Program,” “Education” and “Employment, Job Training and Working Conditions” because the group members said helping the youth in the Takoma Park and Long Branch areas is important for their futures. Youth seem capable of getting jobs, but group members said getting a career should be the goal, as a job could end any day.

The final group selected “Education” as their top priority, saying that without a solid educational foundation, it is much harder later in life to find a job or housing, adding that education affects your health. The second priority was “Housing (affordability, quality),” and said there needs to be more done on the quantity and quality of affordable housing near the metro and public transit routes.

As a whole entity, the group agreed that housing and job training stood out as trends, and while not every group listed them as top priorities, they were at least discussed in detail and certainly stimulated some passionate debate. Participants’ input will be used in the health improvement planning process used by health and human service providers in Montgomery County.

Join the conversation! In a comment to this post select your priority by answering the question below.

In order to improve health and quality of life in your community over the next 3-5 years, what must be the biggest priorities for change and improvement? Why? What do you think must change?

□ Care and Support for Senior Residents

□ Diversity of Cultures and Race Relations

□ Education

□ Employment, Job Training, and Working Conditions

□ Environment/ Air/ Water/ Green Space/ Built Environment

□ Healthy Food (availability and affordability)

□ Housing (affordability, Quality)

□ Medical, Dental, and Mental Health Care

□ Neighborhood, Safety, and Crime

□ Parks and Recreation

□ Traffic Congestion/Highway Safety and Public Transportation

□ Youth and Young Adults Programs

□ Other _____________________

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