April 8, 2024

Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream is alive at Kaiser Permanente

Greg A. Adams, chair and chief executive officer of Kaiser Permanente, received the Dreamer Award for advancing equity.

In 1963, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote and gave his landmark “I Have a Dream” speech.

In the speech, he called on America to live up to its ideals of equality and justice for all. To celebrate the 60th anniversary of that call to action, Martin Luther King III and his wife, Arndrea Waters King — Rev. King’s son and daughter-in-law — created the Dreamer Award. The award recognizes leaders who embody the spirit of Rev. King’s speech.

One of the 60 recipients of the award is Greg A. Adams, chair and chief executive officer of Kaiser Permanente.

Adams was selected to receive the award for advancing a more just and equitable world and health care system. The Dreamer Award honors not only Adams’ leadership but also Kaiser Permanente’s historical commitment to advancing equity.

Long-standing trust

The King family has a deep and personal connection with Kaiser Permanente. Arndrea Waters King’s mother, Gladys Howard Waters, was a Kaiser Permanente nurse in Georgia for more than 26 years.

Arndrea Waters King remembers fondly the many times she participated in Kaiser Permanente community events alongside her mother.

She also remembers her mother insisting there was no better place to get care. This led Arndrea Waters King to choose Kaiser Permanente for her care when she gave birth to her daughter, who is Martin Luther King Jr.’s granddaughter.

The family’s ties with Kaiser Permanente underscore its trust in our care, our mission, and values — along with our commitment to moving equity forward.

Advancing equity: It’s in our roots.

We’ve been on a journey since 1945 to advance equity and inclusion — for our workforce, members, and communities

What formally became Kaiser Permanente started in the Kaiser shipyards in the Pacific Northwest and California in the early 1940s. There, women and men — including people from historically marginalized populations — worked together equally.

Kaiser Permanente opened to the public in 1945, during the time of racial segregation. Yet Kaiser Permanente refused to separate Black and white patients.

Our health care organization was one of the first in the United States to have racially integrated hospitals and waiting rooms

Our ongoing journey

We’ve been on a journey since 1945 to advance equity and inclusion — for our workforce, members, and communities. In recent years, our commitment became stronger as the COVID-19 pandemic exposed social injustices, racism, and inequities in health care.

We’ve increased our efforts to build a highly inclusive, engaged, and equitable workplace. One way we’ve done this is by creating equity principles to guide our practices and behaviors. We also introduced an employee training program called Belong@KP, which helps people recognize bias and racism and improve their abilities to connect with patients and each other.

Our multicultural, multiracial organization reflects the diverse communities we serve. This helps us provide individual care and service based on background and culture. We advance this work by making equity a critical part of how we measure and report on the quality of care we provide our members.

We also address social health in our communities. Social health means being able to take care of your basic needs, like having a safe place to live, enough money to pay bills, and access to healthy meals. These things directly impact health.

We found that nearly 7 out of every 10 of our members have at least one unmet social health need. And our Black, Latino, and multiracial members are more likely to not have enough money to pay their bills, enough food to eat, or safe places to live. We partner with community-based organizations to support these members.

‘We shall march ahead’

In 1963, Rev. King proclaimed, “We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back.”

Kaiser Permanente will continue to be inspired by and honor Rev. King’s dream through our commitment to equity.

We know what can be accomplished when we work with community partners to create a more inclusive, more just, and more equitable world and health care system.