Teachers learning wellness best practices — for their students as well as themselves

Attendees stretch and bend during a fitness break built in to the symposium agenda.

Movement as medicine: Attendees learn stretches during a fitness break built right in to the symposium agenda.

As summer comes to a close and teachers prepare to welcome students back to school, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education in DC and the Tri-state chapter of Action for Healthy Kids, coordinated the Teacher Wellness Symposium, August 11-12. This two-day event consisted of sessions to help teachers bring best practices to their classrooms, deepen their knowledge of wellness and, to improve personal health.

Hosted by Kaiser Permanente at the Center for Total Health and with more than 100 people in attendance, the symposium was open to teachers in Maryland, DC, and Virginia. During the two-day conversation about health policy, student health behaviors and trends, educators tackled tough topics.

Attendees reviewed the impact and design of the DC Healthy Schools Act, the Healthy Hunger Free Schools Act and, explored the connection between healthy students and academic achievement.

Other topics included how to form school wellness councils and shape wellness policies for individual districts and campuses.

The Alliance for a Healthier Generation, Kaiser Permanente’s lead partner in the national Thriving Schools program, talked about creating a healthy school framework.

Educators walked the talk with a sample routine during a 90-minute yoga and stretching workshop coordinated by Yoga Foster.

Diversity and cultural sensitivity were foremost and during Creating Safe Spaces for LGBTQ youth, attendees looked at thecomplexities of LGBTQ youth’s experiences in the classroom and school system.

The Rise of Big Data in Health Care

Big Data ImageBig Data has made headlines in technology by customizing user experience and predicting behavior.

What is Big Data you ask?

It’s the storage and analysis of large quantities of information generally considered too complex for traditional use. Other industries, including health care, are also starting to explore the practical applications of using data to inform decision-making.

I recently explored the potential for the implementation of Big Data in health care in an Observation for the Kaiser Permanente Institute for Health Policy describing how Kaiser Permanente is beginning to use quantitative analysis to improve care for their members.

In current medical practice, newborns are typically taken to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) if the mother’s temperature rises above 100.4 degrees because that may signal an increased risk of neonatal sepsis, a bacterial blood infection. With the emergence of data analysis and evidence-based medical practices, many infants are now spared that trip due to an innovative metric that allows physicians to more accurately determine if the trip to the NICU is essential.

This improvement is due in large part to the work by Kaiser Permanente’s Division of Research, where they collected infant sepsis information across the organization in order to build a simple tool for clinicians called the online sepsis calculator. While this program signals a milestone for clinicians and their patients, advancements in the treatment of neonatal sepsis are just the just the beginning of the power of data.

You can read more of my observation at the Institute for Health Policy website.

New Book Explores the Green Revolution in Health Care

Can hospitals heal the planet? Kathy Gerwig thinks so.

Gerwig, who serves as Kaiser Permanente’s vice president and environmental stewardship officer, recently released a book that explores the intersections of health care and environmental stewardship, advancing the idea that health care organizations need to be addressing their environmental impact if they are truly making an impact on people’s health.

image“Greening Health Care: How Hospitals Can Heal the Planet” looks back over the nearly 20-year history of the green revolution in health care, examining the challenges and rewards of integrating sustainability into the health care sector.

“Health care has a large environmental footprint, but it can also play a crucial role in addressing the major environmental challenges of our time,” explains Gerwig. “The health of the environment is directly tied to the health of communities. By eliminating or mitigating environmental contributors to disease, we in health care can create healthier communities and help people lead healthier lives.”

Published by the Oxford University Press, “Greening Health Care: How Hospitals Can Heal the Planet” presents practical solutions for health care organizations and clinicians to improve their environments and the health of their communities. It covers topics such as climate action, making food services sustainable, managing hospital waste, greening medical buildings, and buying products that are environmentally responsible.

A major theme that permeates the book is the lessons learned through collaboration with other partners. The achievements to date in greening the health care sector have been the result of a great deal of support from other major health systems, non-governmental organizations, suppliers, and community groups.

“We have an opportunity — and an obligation — to address the impacts that health care makes on the environment,” says Gerwig. “And we can do that faster and more effectively if we work together.”

The book is now available at leading book retailers, including online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. All proceeds from the book are being donated to Health Care Without Harm, a non-profit coalition working to transform the health sector worldwide to become ecologically sustainable and a leading advocate for environmental health and justice.  You can find more information about the book here.

Total Health Questionnaire: Ted Eytan, MD

Ted Eytan, MDTed Eytan, MD, is the Physician Director of the Kaiser Permanante Center for Total Health. He wears many, many hats at Kaiser Permanente, and started wearing the Center for Total Health hat about two years ago.

Q: In a few words, what does Total Health mean to you?
A: It’s not 100 percent health; it’s balance in achieving life goals.

Q: Which person, living or dead, is your health hero or role model?
A: 
My mother.

Q: What do you most value in your work? What inspires you to continue?
A: 
I value the opportunity to make a difference and connect with awesome people, including our Center for Total Health team – Keith, Erin, Yen, all of my Kaiser Permanente colleagues, community colleagues, and our members!!! I am inspired by others’ success and the human spirit (that’s what the whole picture-taking thing is about).

Q: If you could change one thing in health care, what would it be?
A: 
I would have a patient/member be a part of every team and every committee, at every level of every health system.

Q: In your opinion, what is the most underrated way to improve health for individuals?
A: Walking for sure, except it’s not considered underrated anymore because it’s really caught on.

Q: Where would you most like to live?
A: 
Easy. Washington, DC. I’ve arrived.

Q: What do you consider your greatest achievement so far?
A: To connect with the patient community – outside of the medical system – and connect them back to the health system. It’s been awesome seeing my colleagues at the CTH and beyond engage in supporting the diverse populations we take care of.

Q: If you could have dinner with any three people, living or dead, who would you pick?
A:  I’d probably enjoy a walk with Harvey Milk, Ryan White, and Sidney Garfield, MD.

Six Burning Questions Health Care Leaders Have about ACOs

ACO imageIf you ask health care leaders what they think about Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), you won’t be short on answers, writes Samantha DuPont of the Kaiser Permanente Institute for Health Policy, in a recent article and video on the Institute website.

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, ACOs are formed by groups of doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers, coming together to provide coordinated high quality care to their patients.

Early ACOs have had mixed success, and in light of emerging research questions remain as to whether or not they will result in comprehensive delivery system and payment reform that is sustainable.

DuPont chronicles the six themes that emerged from the Institute’s work in asking leaders from across the nation their burning questions about ACOs:

1. What do ACOs look like today?

2. What factors will lead to ACO success?

2. Are current financial incentives strong enough to change provider behavior?

4. Will ACOs integrate with other types of caregivers?

5. Will ACOs successfully engage their patients?

6. What metrics will effectively measure quality?

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Friday Food: Tasty Tacos — Without the Guilt

The latest Food for Health blog recipe is a keeper — veggie tacos!  Kaiser Permanente physician and chef Benjamin Maring, MD, shares his lighter take on this popular meal.  The trick is to combine raw veggies with roasted cauliflower and sweet potato, which — according to Maring — add what he describes as “a heartiness that make you not miss the classic seasoned ground meat filling, even for a second.”  Check it out here.

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Today We Launch the Total Health Questionnaire. First Up: Keith Montgomery

This post kicks off a new series on our blog. We’re calling it the Total Health Questionnaire, and we’re asking all sorts of people to complete it. It’s a shameless borrowing of a concept from Marcel Proust and Vanity Fair, except we’ve changed the questions to make them more about total health. 

Is there someone you’d like us to feature in this series? Nominate them! Send us a message here with your suggestion.

Keith Montgomery is the Executive Director of the Kaiser Permanente Center for Total Health.

Keith Montgomery

Keith Montgomery

Q: In a few words, what does Total Health mean to you?
A: A broader focus on your health than just the care you receive at a medical center or through a provider. Total health is addressing all the factors that influence your health and state of being. Most important, its realizing that each person is different and offering the right integrated health care resources

Q: What’s your first health-related memory?
A: I spent a lot of my childhood in a hospital, and I remember them as sterile, boring environments.  It’s exciting to see new designs for hospitals and medical centers including more home-like details.

Q: What is your favorite food?
A: 
Curry.  Anything curry.

Q: What do you most value in your work? What inspires you to continue?
A:
The rapid change taking place today.  Health care outcomes won’t change until each person takes more responsibility for their own health. I think wearable devices and smart clothing will help more people think about what they can do every day to be more proactive about their own health.

Q: In your opinion, what is the most underrated way to improve health for individuals?
A: They say you are what you eat. No amount of exercise can make up for the unhealthy choices we make when eating.

Q: Where do/would you most like to travel?
A: Chicago feels like home away from home. I’ve been traveling there since my first business trip ever, and it just feel like I grew up there.  The summer months are amazing – whether walking or biking along the lake or attending a Cubs game.

Q: What do you consider your greatest achievement so far?
A: I once organized an end-of-life care summit for the largest African-American churches in Chicago.  The event culminated with gospel choirs from all the churches entertaining at closing celebration.  Simply an amazing experience.

Q: If you could have dinner with any three people, living or dead, who would you pick?
A:  Albert Einstein – pure genius. What was he like when not focused on work?
Robin Williams – if laughter is the best medicine, I’d be the healthiest person around.
Dolly Parton – Who doesn’t love Dolly? From rags to riches. Both a singer and actress.  Dinner at her house would be good old southern hospitality. Yes, I listen to country music.

How Innovation brought Exercise as a Vital Sign to Life

Two years ago, a team from Kaiser Permanente’s Innovation Consultancy was given the task of transforming patient data on exercise into actionable information that health care providers could use to encourage healthy behaviors. They called this initiative Project Move.

In part five of her seven-part blog series on Exercise as a Vital Sign (EVS), Dr. Latifat Apatira describes how the Innovation team went about the work of better understanding patients’ barriers and motivations regarding exercise.

The Innovators traveled to several Kaiser Permanente regions to analyze interactions between health care providers and members. They learned that patients are less active because of busy lifestyles. As for health providers, it was determined that they did not have time nor established resources to address their inactivity.

The group came up with several ideas to make EVS more actionable that are outlined in detail in the EVS blog, including screening questions from medical assistants and licensed vocational nurses that get entered into the medical record and passed along to the next level of care. Depending on how members answer the first round of questions, follow-up questions can lead to exercise prompts or referrals to health and wellness coaches.

While the results of the work are still being analyzed, new innovations are underway, including a website that helps members find resources for physical activity.

The Thursday Dish: Healthy Stuffed Rainbow Peppers

Stuffed-Rainbow-Peppers_593x473pxToday, it’s another tasty recipe from the Food for Health blog — but this one has a twist.

There’s a great story behind this recipe, one that features a 12-year-old being recognized for her culinary creativity with an invitation to dine with First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House.

According to our friends at Food for Health:

Grace Wetzler is budding chef and healthy cooking advocate who took on the First Lady’s 2014 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge and decided to submit her recipe for healthy stuffed rainbow peppers into the contest.

“I was on spring vacation when I heard about the contest from my cousin. I thought about it and thought about it and tried to come up with some recipe ideas. And then the recipe just came to me on a whim. I put the ingredients together and it just worked! So I submitted my entry.”

Indeed, out of approximately 1,500 entries that were submitted, Grace’s delicious and nutritious stuffed rainbow peppers were among the 54 winners that made the cut. Grace was eventually notified that she was a winner and that she’d be headed to the White House to celebrate and enjoy a State Dinner with the First Lady and other dignitaries.

This colorful recipe is a great example of how Grace is already showing imagination in her cooking.  And it has the nutritional stats to back it up — 392 calories, 10 grams of fat, 40 grams of carbohydrates, and 27 grams of protein.

Check out the recipe here.

Using New Technology and Innovation to Improve Care

robotRoving about the hospital on wheels, the InTouch Health® RP-VITA® robot lets doctors see and talk with patients, families, and staff in the intensive care unit in the middle of the night. From their home computers, doctors guide the robot, connect via secure video, and virtually respond to urgent needs in a matter of minutes.

The Kaiser Permanente Institute for Health Policy’s latest Policy Story shows how a three-month pilot of InTouch® helped physicians improve communications and respond to after-hours emergencies at a Kaiser Permanente hospital in Fremont, CA. Champions of this new technology are attempting to spread its use across the organization.

This exciting development is just one innovation being tested at Kaiser Permanente, where an extensive support system enables physicians and front-line staff to bring new ideas to life.

The Story also suggests ways to overcome innovation road blocks in health care when trying to get ideas moving. Here’s one of the tips:  Share best practices to generate enthusiasm through blogging, email updates, and demonstrations.

We’re following our own advice with this blog thanks to the Center for Total Health. Please pass it on.

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