Leadership Perspectives: Good Health Starts Where You Are


Editor’s Note: Today, we launch a recurring feature on the Center for Total Health Blog. “Leadership Perspectives” is a collection of guest blog posts from Kaiser Permanente leaders all about why we need to take a Total Health approach.

Today’s guest author is Elisa Mendel, national vice president of HealthWorks & Product Innovation for Kaiser Permanente, who shares her thoughts on place-based health.


How much time would you guess you spend at work each year? Would you be surprised if I said it’s something like 2,000 hours?

Elisa Mendel, VP of HealthWorks & Product Innovation for Kaiser Permanente

Elisa Mendel, VP of HealthWorks & Product Innovation for Kaiser Permanente

Compare that to the time we spend with our doctor — maybe 15 minutes once or twice a year? That’s why place-based health is so important. At its core, good health starts with us — where we live, work, learn, and play.

That’s one of the reasons Kaiser Permanente partnered with leading national organizations to launch Thriving Schools. The idea is that schools are the hub of every community. Our work in schools focuses on four key areas: healthy eating, active living, school employee wellness, and a positive school environment. One of the active living programs is called Fire Up Your Feet. Fire Up Your Feet’s fall campaign launches October 1, and it encourages kids to walk to school with their parents, giving them much-needed exercise and some quality time together.

Another initiative I really love combines the childhood enthusiasm for play with the workplace. It’s called “Instant Recess.” A manager or wellness champion schedules time with their team —usually about 10 minutes. Everyone stops what they’re doing, and one of the team members leads the group in dancing and exercise. People are moving, getting their blood pumping, and laughing together. It’s had amazing results, because when you’re doing the chicken dance with your supervisor, suddenly things feel a little less stressful.

Kaiser Permanente piloted this in various work settings — call centers, IT, and even the ICU. One of the ICU patients heard the staff doing this Instant Recess every day on the floor and she was determined to get out of bed so she could be wheeled out to participate in the fun.

There’s no limit to the benefits of healthy living. It can lift spirits and deliver real business results. One study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine showed that employees who ate healthy and exercised regularly were up to 27 percent less likely to be absent from work for health reasons.

Good health is becoming a national movement. Find your “healthy,” and start to share good health close to your home.

Workplace Wellness


At Kaiser Permanante, we understand well that health outcomes are impacted significantly by our environments, so we work with employers, communities, and schools to provide tools and education about wellness and healthy living.

On June 20, Kaiser Permanante invited some of our largest customer groups to spend the morning discussing workforce wellness and healthy environments. The meeting offered expert advice from wellness leaders and experts, including Kaiser Permanante’s own Tom Carter.

You can see video of the dance break in this article from the Washington Business Journal.

Looking for ideas to make your workplace and meetings healthier? Look here.

Bring Walking Meetings to Your Office!


Studies continue to roll in on the health risks of sitting at work all day.  According to the latest update from the BBC, employers in Denmark are required to offer workers the option of a standing desk. And while most studies focus on adults, new research on workers of the future aims to see whether children can benefit from standing lessons.  Research suggests a combination of sitting and standing meetings may be a healthier solution.  Add walking meetings to the mix and the potential benefits expand. CBS news recently visited the Center for Total Health and filed the following story on the growing popularity of walking meetings.

Can you benefit from standing desks or walking meetings? Check out the BBC video here and many more resources on healthy meetings from Kaiser Permanente.

Real Life Rosies!


Today, the Center for Total Health team was delighted to host six real-life Rosies, so-called for the famous Rosie the Riveter of World War II. These women worked in Kaiser Shipyards — where Kaiser Permanente was born — while their friends, brothers, husbands, and neighbors were at war. They were among the first women hired for these jobs, and the first admitted into the Boilermakers Union.


In addition to the well-known Rosie image, we loved this poster showing safe shipyard attire.

Shipyard Dress

The women are in Washington, DC, to meet with Vice President Joe Biden, President Obama, and other senior government officials. See all the pictures here. You can read more about them, and World War II in the shipyards, on the History of Total Health Blog.

The NO MORE Campaign Celebrates its First Year with More Support Than Ever


This week, the NO MORE campaign against domestic violence and sexual assault is celebrating its first anniversary.  The public awareness campaign has focused its efforts over its inaugural year on gaining support with Americans nationwide, sparking new conversations about these problems and moving this cause higher on the public agenda.

While domestic violence and sexual assault are historically two issues that corporations have shied away from addressing, this week, many major corporations pledged millions of dollars in new commitments.   You can read more about how these private sector organizations are showing their support in the official press release.

Earlier this week, advocacy groups and corporate leaders – including Jack Cochran, MD, executive director of The Permanente Federation, on behalf of Kaiser Permanente – met with White House officials, including representatives from the White House Council on Women and Girls, to discuss the important role that all stakeholders – including the private sector – can play in supporting domestic violence and sexual assault programs.

To learn more about how to support the work of local domestic violence and sexual assault prevention organizations or to participate in, “NO MORE Week” visit www.nomore.org.  You can check out the campaign on Facebook, or you can join the conversation on Twitter by following the hash tag #NOMOREweek.

Staying Healthy in Space: How do Astronauts Work Out?


If you have ever wondered what astronauts do to stay fit and healthy, you are not alone. At Kaiser Permanente, we are passionate supporters of the Every Body Walk! campaign, and being at this NASA event today, we can’t help but wonder what you can do in space to maintain strength.

As it turns out, Every Body Walks…even in space! According to this video, astronauts walk and run while at the International Space Station via a specially-rigged treadmill. Check it out.

Interested in the day-to-day life of astronauts? You can follow the current round of astronauts at the International Space Station on Twitter. See their handles in the graphic below.


Forum Brings Together Leaders to Discuss Keys to Behavior Change, Building Healthier Habits to Address Obesity


As we discuss often on this blog, the obesity epidemic in the United States is a rapidly growing public health concern. Earlier this month, Kaiser Permanente presented the Forum for Healthy Behavior Change in Washington, D.C., along with the American Heart Association and the National Business Group on Health, to address this pressing issue. The forum brought together 200 health care leaders, policy makers, community leaders and other experts, who discussed how to effectively support healthy lifestyle changes, such as healthier eating and increased physical activity, in both clinical and community settings.

The video below highlights some additional topics and discussions from the forum, including how to use “baby steps” in ultimately creating successful behavior change.

Fighting Childhood Obesity with the Inspiring Premiere of the Weight of the Nation for Kids


Tonight, the documentary, The Weight of the Nation for Kids, premieres on HBO.  The three-part series focuses on young people taking the initiative to fight obesity by effecting real change in their school and community environments.

The three films are:

  • The Great Cafeteria Takeover, which follows a group of children in New Orleans that set out to make a difference in their community during the post-Katrina rebuilding period, eventually succeeding in changing their school lunch menus to include healthier options.
  • Kabreeya’s Salad Days, the story of 17-year-old Kabreeya Lewis, whose fierce persistence allowed her to achieve her goal of having a salad bar in her high school cafeteria in North Carolina.
  • Quiz Ed!, a documentary-style quiz show that polls young people, ranging from 10 to 18 years of age, using riddles about the food and activity factors that are contributing to the obesity epidemic.

Kaiser Permanente is also addressing the issue of obesity through the recently launched Thriving Schools — a comprehensive, national effort for K-12 students, their parents and families as well as teachers and staff, focused on creating a culture of health in schools. These efforts combined are part of an ongoing commitment to improve school health through healthy food options and regular physical activity.

The original Weight of the Nation series of documentaries first aired on HBO (and were available on the documentary’s official website) in 2012, and was part of a major public awareness campaign aimed at addressing the obesity epidemic in the United States.  More on The Weight of the Nation series is available here, and on the official website.

The Center for Total Health has a new, interactive, touch-screen exhibit focused on healthy schools and healthy workplaces, and much of its content addresses the growing challenge of obesity in the United States.  If you are in the Washington, D.C. area, we invite you to stop by and experience it — and the rest of the center’s exhibits — first hand.  You can find information about visiting the center here.

Thriving Schools: A partnership for healthy students, staff, and teachers


Playground Pic for Thriving Schools - 2013-03-18

Good school health has always been a priority for Kaiser Permanente — now the health care organization is deepening its  commitment to total health for all by partnering with leading national organizations on Thriving Schools. Thriving Schools helps create a culture of health by promoting workforce health and student-focused interventions like improving school lunches and increasing opportunities for physical activity.

You can visit kp.org/thrivingschools to read real stories about champions making a difference at schools and for free, ready-to-use resources that can help schools make good health a part of everyday life.

Engaging Employees for Better Health and Well-Being


When we consider that most of us spend more than 2,000 hours each year at our jobs, workplace health suddenly holds more significance.  But even for those employers who see the value in promoting workforce health, the challenge can often be how to begin a wellness program at their organization.

Aiming to address that very issue, Kaiser Permanente offers free, do-it-yourself resources for employers—including a workbook focused on maintaining a healthier workforce.  Healthy employees are less likely to be absent or exhibit “presenteeism”—being on the job but not productive because of a chronic condition or illness.  According to one report, organizations with highly effective health and productivity programs have 20 percent more revenue per employee.

KP’s free HealthWorks toolkit, which features step-by-step guidelines and supporting materials, can help companies get started.  It can be found on KP’s BusinessNet website.

Simple ways to improve health and productivity at work:

  • Encourage employees to eat healthy and get physically active as a means to reduce stress
  • Promote walking meetings and lunchtime walks
  • Clean and brighten stairways so employees can use the stairs
  • Install bicycle storage racks to encourage employees to ride to work
  • Set aside an exercise area or invite a fitness instructor to offer a class at work
  • Create a company sports team or walking challenge to get the workforce active

For help with engaging folks in a walking challenge or program, one resource to tap is the Every Body Walk! mobile app (available for free on OS and Android platforms).  For Kaiser Permanente HealthWorks subscribers, there is Thrive Across America—a popular workforce online tool that lets users track their activity across a virtual route—that also has an app that is available to subscribers.  The video below highlights employees from the County of Marin, who participated in Thrive Across America for 10 weeks and saw significant positive results.