February 9, 2010

Support for First Lady’s Fight for Children’s Health Newest Chapter in Kaiser Permanente’s Historic Leadership

Contributed by Tom Debley, Former Heritage Archives director

and Bryan Culp, Former Heritage Archives director

Kaiser Permanente people can feel a real sense of pride — present and historic — with word we are a founding partner in the Partnership for a Healthier America, the coalition that will work alongside First Lady Michelle Obama in the fight against the nationwide epidemic in childhood obesity.

On the Home Front of WWII in the Kaiser Richmond shipyards, children of the shipyard workers stepped up to the scales during their routine health checkups. Kaiser Permanente was the largest civilian medical care program in the U.S. in World War II, and is today a sponsor of the Rosie the Riveter / World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, California.

This critical movement in 2010 is reminiscent in some ways of another First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, when she reached out more than a half century ago in 1943 to Kaiser Permanente’s founding physician, Sidney R. Garfield, for advice on preventive medicine. “I am interested in getting medical care, both preventive and curative, at least cost to the people,” she said in a message from the White House.

And on another leadership front, it is reminiscent of a Southern California Permanente Medical Group physician and UCLA School of Medicine professor who, 45 years ago, published the first research paper to suggest that atherosclerosis, a consequence of obesity, might in fact be a “pediatric disease.” Dr. Martin Reisman, a pediatric cardiologist, issued the seminal call for a better understanding of the dietary causes of pediatric atherosclerosis. (For more information on Dr. Reisman’s work, see the vignette, Voice of a Permanente Pioneer.)

The latest leadership initiative came as Michelle Obama announced that she’s taking a leading role as an advocate for clinical and community-based prevention approaches to fight the nationwide epidemic in childhood obesity. Her Let's Move campaign will encourage families to commit to living healthier, active lives.

Kaiser Permanente is one of the founding partners in the Partnership for a Healthier America, is a coalition that will work alongside the First Lady to place best practices for fighting childhood obesity in every community throughout the nation. Other founding partners include The California Endowment, Nemours, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.

Kaiser Permanente has long supported a comprehensive approach to combating childhood obesity, including healthy eating and active living, and clinical and evidence-based interventions. As Ray Baxter, senior vice president, Community Benefit, Research and Health Policy, commented on the First Lady’s announcement: “KP has been committed to clinical weight management and community health efforts for many years, and we have received national acclaim for this work.... In every community we serve, we work to fight obesity, reduce health disparities and make healthy food and physical activity a part of everyday life.”