Community health initiatives

Kaiser Permanente Colorado’s Community Health Initiatives (CHI) take a prevention-driven approach to health, by supporting policy, systems, and environment change strategies in geographically-defined areas. We seek to maximize impact through collaboration and collective influence. These efforts aim to support and encourage healthy behavior by improving the built, social, and cultural environments in which people spend their daily lives (e.g., ensuring nutritious foods in schools,safe active commute options). We work with community-based organizations to design, deliver, and sustain long-term efforts that improve the conditions of neighborhoods, workplaces, schools, and other settings.

Evidence underscores the importance of changing community environments as a critical community health strategy. Guided by this evidence, we focus on policy and environmental changes to promote healthy eating and active living, community safety, economic stability, and social and emotional wellness. We know that excellent medical care alone is not sufficient enough to create healthy communities.

Through funding, technical expertise, and community engagement, we invest in population-based approaches that emphasize prevention and evidence-based practices. Our public health interventions, community activism, and environmental and policy work are designed to transform community conditions that influence health.

The following examples demonstrate our areas of work that form the heart of our CHI strategy:

  • LiveWell Colorado communities
  • neighborhood active living
  • food insecurity
  • behavioral health
  • economic mobility
  • Healthy Eating and Active Living in LiveWell Communities

    In 2014, we invested $4.85 million over three years in LiveWell Colorado (LWC) a place-based initiative, in 23 communities throughout Colorado.  In 2016, we provided funding to seven (7) LiveWell Colorado communities that were in their fourth/fifth years of project implementation but were unable to continue their work due to lack of funding.

    In collaboration with The Colorado Health Foundation we provided funding to allow the seven LiveWell Colorado communities to complete their implementation phase and to work toward achieving long-term sustainability of their community coalition efforts. Our investment of $1.6 million is to support continued efforts to create sustainable HEAL behaviors among the populations of these communities.

    Neighborhood Active Living

    We approved an investment of up to $1 million over three (3) years to support neighborhood-based organizations to increase access to safe and accessible routes to neighborhood destinations and to increase the number of individuals who walk, bike, or wheelchair roll for transportation. The concept of neighborhood includes both geographic (place-oriented) and social (people-oriented) components. This funding opportunity is expected to achieve the following objectives by the end of the three-year funding period:

    1. Increased access to safe and accessible routes to prioritized destinations within a community
    2. Increased number of individuals who walk, bike, or wheelchair roll for transportation.
    3. Decreasing Food Insecurity

      Food insecurity refers to the degree to which food intake is reduced or normal eating patterns disrupted because of lack of money and other resources. The limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods includes involuntarily cutting back on meal or food portions, or not knowing the source of the next meal. There are multiple adverse health outcomes strongly correlated with food insecurity, including obesity and, among children, iron deficiency, lower cognitive indicators, and lower bone density.

      To address food insecurity, we made a number of investments in community-based organizations to complement the work in our medical offices to screen members for food insecurity and connect those who screen positive to various food resources (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program [SNAP] enrollment, Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children [WIC] services, food pantries).

      Three key investments are a significant part of a multi-level strategy to address food insecurity:

      • Hunger Free Colorado. In 2014, we invested $600,000 over three years in Hunger Free Colorado to activate the critical levers to sustainably end hunger in Colorado, including: increase participation in federal nutrition programs such as SNAP; increase number of and participation in child nutrition programs such as the Summer Food and Afterschool Meal Programs; help impacted schools implement Breakfast After the Bell legislation; and collect and disseminate best practices in food resources for older adults among agencies servicing this demographic.
      • Reducing Food Insecurity. In March 2016, we invested a little more than $1 million in 13 organizations over two years to implement evidence-based practices to increase enrollment in SNAP and/or to increase participation in Summer Food Services Program. Grantees include three safety net clinics, domestic violence prevention and multi-service organizations, rural and urban communities, those serving children to seniors, and agencies utilizing promotoras and volunteers.
      • Care and Share Food Bank of Southern Colorado. In 2015, we invested $225,000 over three years to allow Care and Share to build partnerships with organizations in communities in a four-county area in Southern Colorado to address food insecurity. The investment supports community-based research and evaluation to determine needs and solutions; identify viable locations for 19 new food access points to reach an additional 6,000 people; and create a sustainable model to incorporate volunteers in new ways.
      • Two other investments support reducing food insecurity and broader healthy eating goals:

        • Fresh Food Financing Fund. In 2012, we invested $1 million to this fund which provides financing for renovation of grocery stores in underserved areas, or “food deserts.”
        • Denver Botanic Gardens (DBG). In 2015, we invested $88,000 over three years to enable DBG to hire a market grower to facilitate core farming operations for the Farm Stands in Food Desert programs. The Market Grower position is key to DBG's creation of multiple farm stands and will ensure the organization's ability to transition this program from grantfunded to self-funded. Existing programs, such as the Veterans To Farmers Program, will plug into the farming activities overseen by the Market Grower to engage veterans. Through hands-on farming and vocational training, these veterans will be candidates for volunteer and/or staff positions that may be added to support farm stand operations.
        • Behavioral Health and Social/Emotional Well-being

          • LAUNCH Together. We invested $1 million over five years in LAUNCH (Linking Actions for Unmet Needs in Children’s Health) Together. We're partnering with several foundations to scale a federal program designed to fuel community collaboration for improved social-emotional health and development programs and systems to benefit higher risk children prenatally through age eight and their families. LAUNCH Together is a first in the nation public-private initiative which features a dual focus on the implementation of evidence-based prevention and promotion practices and the strengthening of systems and policy improvement.
          • Community Partnership for Child Development (CPCD): We invested $150,000 over two years to support CPCD to scale the Pyramid Plus Approach, an evidence-based consultative behavioral health model which creates a foundation for children’s social and emotional health and cognitive learning. CPCD prepares these young children for success in school and in life by offering quality, no cost early childhood education along with medical, dental, behavioral health, and family support services.
          • School Districts. We invested $1.5 million over three years to address social/emotional wellness and behavioral health within school districts to improve learning outcomes for every student. Five school districts will use the grants to help teachers and staff learn how to identify and handle mental health needs in students and themselves. The outcomes will include implementing policies to create trauma-sensitive and culturally responsive classrooms and schools; increasing participation in social/emotional wellness prevention programs; increasing belonging/connectedness among students, families, teachers, and staff; and improving teacher and staff social/emotional wellness competencies through professional development opportunities.
          • Economic Mobility

            • Denver Public Schools Foundation. We invested $650,000 over three years in Implementing a Biomedical Career and Technical Education Pathway (Biomedical CTE Pathway), part of a larger science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) Career Pathways Initiative of Denver Public Schools (DPS). The Biomedical Pathway builds on the foundational principles of DPS for Career and Technical Education (CTE) and offers students options that lead to preparation for four-year college programs or to complete associate’s degree with certification opportunities to prepare students to directly enter workforce. In the five schools participating in the Biomedical CTE Pathway, over 75 percent of the population is eligible for free or reduced lunch, and over 50 percent minority enrollment.
            • Arts Integrated Resources (AIR) Programs

              We also achieve our CHI goals through our Arts Integrated Resources (AIR) Programs which are presented free of charge to schools and community organizations. Programs are performed in school and community settings. We created AIR Programs to inspire children, teens and adults to make informed decisions about their health, to build stronger, healthier neighborhoods, and to improve public health by using the arts, creative education, and youth advocacy.

              Our AIR Programs focus on topics such as nutrition, physical activity, healthy choices, peer pressure, conflict management, bullying prevention, domestic violence, coping with grief and loss, depression, disease, literacy promotion, and drug, alcohol and substance abuse. AIR promotes greater community health through educational theatre, dynamic youth engagement projects, and hands-on experiential learning for Coloradans of all ages.