Resident Leadership Academies

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Resident Leadership Academies (RLAs) are multi-week training programs for San Diego County residents who want to learn how to improve their local communities. Training sessions focus on topics such as community leadership, crime prevention and safety, land use and active transportation, and healthy food systems. Residents learn skills and best practices to address the issues that most affect their communities, and they work alongside their neighbors to help improve quality of life where they live. Upon graduation, attendees have new knowledge and access to a support network to help them lead community improvement projects.

RLA Updates and Opportunities

Many individuals and organizations are involved in Resident Leadership Academies across the County. The latest updates can be found on social media.

RLA Curriculum

Those who would like to facilitate a RLA can find the Facilitator/Train the Trainer and Participant materials below. The RLA Curriculum consists of a Participant Manual, modifiable PowerPoints, and various templates and handouts. The curriculum covers subjects such as Community Building Principles, Social Determinants of Health, Land Use and Community Planning, and more.

The County of San Diego currently has two approved RLA curriculums available. For groups funded for a particular RLA session or project, the version of the curriculum to be used will be determined by your funder (see links below). For all other groups, either version, or elements from both, may be used for the trainings.

  • 1st Edition Curriculum
    1st edition curriculum covers resident-driven community improvement efforts, including community building principles, neighborhood assessment activities and strategies for stakeholder engagement.
  • 2nd Edition Curriculum
    2nd edition curriculum expands on the 1st edition to include embedded activities, reflection questions and content on smoke-free environments and climate change.

RLA Resources & Opportunities

Bi-Monthly RLA Council Meetings
Meetings to provide additional training, discuss RLA updates, and to engage with other RLA practitioners. Anyone in the RLA network (graduates/residents, facilitators, CBOs and agencies supporting RLA) is welcome and encouraged to attend.

Technical Assistance (TA) for RLA Practitioners
TA is provided by the County to any RLA Practitioner involved with RLAs. TA may consist of assistance with planning of future RLAs, and development, refining, and implementation of Community Improvement Projects (CIPs), for example. For groups funded for a particular RLA session or project, the TA provider will be determined by your funder.

RLA Network Supplemental Training Workshops for Current RLA Practitioners
Supplemental trainings are available to anyone in the RLA network (graduates/residents, facilitators). These trainings focus on expanding leadership skills and offering opportunities for current RLA practitioners to engage with one another. The supplemental trainings may cover, but are not limited to, such topics as: Presentation Skills, Meeting Facilitation, and/or Applying for Resources.

New Facilitator Training/Train the Trainer Seminars
Seminar participants attend 3-4 full days of training, which consist of a detailed review of the curriculum, facilitation practice and tips for RLA planning and coordination. One or more new facilitator trainings per year will be offered through 2019.

Contact us for additional information on any of the resources listed above, or to learn about RLAs happening in your community.

RLA Success Stories

SDREACH Improves and Expands Lactation Support in San Diego County

Post Date:04/28/2023 9:37 AM

New lactation banner April newsletter

By Allison Gallegos-Jeffrey and Spencer Stein, Maternal, Child, Family Health Services


Although most infants receive some breast milk, they are not exclusively breastfeeding or continuing to breastfeed as long as recommended. In an effort to improve breastfeeding rates, San Diego County’s Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (SDREACH) is increasing the number of lactation educators at health centers for underserved areas, such as Federally Qualified Health Centers. These facilities work to reduce and prevent chronic disease among low-income, uninsured, homeless, migrant and rural residents by improving nutrition, increasing physical activity, and connecting clinical organizations to community programs. 

“Appointments are more accessible, making it possible to address any concern or complication right away, helping to prevent more severe complications,” said Gina Parra, a certified lactation education and manager of women’s health at Family Health Centers of San Diego.

Grant funding allowed SDREACH to train more than 100 individuals to become certified lactation educators. As a result, clinics were better able to deliver breastfeeding consultations and support to those who are pregnant and/or postpartum. During the COVID-19 pandemic, lactation educators adapted care delivery to include virtual visits, providing another way to support mothers and babies. In the last three years, there have been more than 5,000 lactation visits at clinics partnering with SDREACH. At Family Health Centers of San Diego, there are now seven lactation educators, each of whom has averaged 100 appointments every month.

Disparity in Breastfeeding Rates

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children be exclusively breastfed for the first six months and continue to breastfeed with complementary foods for two years or beyond. Breastfeeding is an important source of nutrition and can also reduce the risk of mothers and babies developing chronic diseases. While eight in 10 infants receive some breast milk, less than half of infants born in the United States are exclusively breastfed through three months of age, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. 

In San Diego County, breastfeeding rates differ dramatically among racial and ethnic groups. After delivery, fewer than seven in 10 African American parents report exclusively breastfeeding; fewer than eight in 10 Hispanic parents report exclusively breastfeeding at this same time; in comparison, more than eight out of 10 White parents exclusively breastfeed, the highest rate among all racial and ethnic groups, according to the California Department of Public Health.  

Several factors play a role in whether and how long babies are breastfed, including education, encouragement, and the availability of medical support in the first week after birth when breastfeeding issues most commonly arise. Employment-related factors, including time for and access to clean and safe places to breastfeed, may also affect this. Under the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act (PUMP Act), which was signed into law Dec. 29, 2022, employers of all types must provide break time and a private space other than a bathroom for lactating workers to express milk for the first year of their child’s life. 

Immediately after delivery, hospitals provide some level of breastfeeding education, but many mothers have reported that this education was brief and insufficient. Certified lactation educators are breastfeeding support professionals trained to assist women with the normal course of breastfeeding. They teach classes, run breastfeeding support groups, and provide general training and counseling. Lactation educators are in high demand at community health clinics to provide ongoing breastfeeding education and support. 

Lactation Appointments Are Up

At Family Health Centers of San Diego, lactation-related appointments have increased by about 300 each month compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, more patients are completing their appointments since virtual visits overcome many of the barriers that new mothers face in trying to get an in-person visit. Appointment completion has increased by 20 percent after initiating virtual visits. 

Easy access to breastfeeding support helps new mothers with challenges that arise early in the postpartum period. This increases the likelihood that mothers will continue to breastfeed their babies and improves health outcomes for both mothers and babies. 

This program enabling real-time virtual breastfeeding support is a best practice that can easily be adopted by other health clinics.

Photo: A lactation educator provides a demonstration via telehealth at Family Health Centers of San Diego.

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