By Staff Reports
(Victor Valley)– Over the past decade, Kaiser Permanente has used different aspects of its Healthy Eating Active Living (or HEAL) initiative to improve health policies, programs and ultimately health outcomes across more than 60 communities, positively impacting the health of more than 715,000 people. However, there is still more work to do on obesity prevention, say the Kaiser Permanente experts and community health leaders who authored a series of 11 studies that appeared today in an American Journal of Preventive Medicine supplement.
“These studies provide important insights from a decade of innovative, community-wide efforts to stem the obesity epidemic,” says Loel Solomon, PhD, vice president for Community Health at Kaiser Permanente. “They show what it takes to create meaningful, lasting change. The lessons we’ve learned are as valuable as they are timely, because our work is far from done.”
In the American Journal of Preventive Medicine supplement, Kaiser Permanente experts and community health partners begin with an overview of the studies, “The Kaiser Permanente Community Health Initiative: A Decade of Implementing and Evaluating Community Change,” which gives context to the work as part of a cohesive program addressing health outcomes across the country. The papers themselves cover a variety of topics, including improving healthy eating and activity in home-based child care settings, increasing food security, creating healthier school lunches, and increasing physical activity in school and community settings.
Study highlights and insights
- Significant impact is possible when working with youth, especially in schools and on physical activity. This is where Kaiser Permanente saw the biggest changes and the most promise.
- “Dose” matters for community impact.To improve the health of communities, the impact needs to reach a lot of people with well-chosen, strong strategies.
- Community-based obesity initiatives need to be flexibleand address other pressing community concerns like community violence. This flexibility is key to creating impact and sustaining community support.
- Lasting results require sustainable changes, including policy. Working with municipal leaders to provide tools, resources and information to adopt policies that advance population health goals is crucial to long-term success.
“Kaiser Permanente and community partner leaders have worked together to positively change community nutrition and physical activity environments that foster the development of obesity,” says William Dietz, MD, PhD, Sumner M. Redstone Center chair, George Washington University, and previous director of the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “This body of work identifies strategies that can spread and scale in other communities to address this public health crisis.”
The risks of obesity to health are clear, say the authors in these evaluations. It can cause life-threatening and chronic illnesses that shorten life spans, reduce quality of life, and contribute to health care cost inflation that are crowding out other critical social investments. Rates of obesity and the consequences for health are especially high in low-income communities of color, say the authors. That is why this work is critically important, to address health needs from every angle and scale them nationwide.