Kaiser Permanente recently sponsored a prominent California celebration of the United Nations, which was chartered in San Francisco 70 years ago — the same year Kaiser Permanente was formally launched.
The 70th Anniversary of the United Nations: A Bay Area Celebration, featured a compelling panel on climate change, personally hosted and attended by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and featuring Kaiser Permanente Senior Vice President of Community Benefit, Research and Health Policy Raymond J. Baxter, PhD.
“We in health care need to lead in addressing climate change, not follow,” Baxter told fellow panelists including U.S. Representative Nancy Pelosi and former CNN CEO Ted Turner. “At Kaiser Permanente, we will meet our commitment to reducing our carbon footprint by 2017 — three years earlier than we had planned.”
Baxter pointed to Kaiser Permanente’s leadership in eliminating all mercury from our clinical settings including thermometers and blood pressure monitoring equipment — a move that prompted all U.S. health care organizations to do so as well — and compelled 120 countries around the world to promise similar actions.
Representative Pelosi and the U.N. Secretary General both praised Kaiser Permanente’s pioneering environmental work and the organization’s willingness to share best practices with the entire health care industry — as well as other corporations and countries.
Improving lives through innovation and a shared history
Innovation and its role in improving the lives of people everywhere was also a topic of conversation during the celebration. Kaiser Permanente’s innovation had a role in helping the U.N. over a rough spot in the process of getting a charter signed in San Francisco 70 years ago.
At one point in the spring of 1945, negotiations about how to form the U.N. deadlocked. The U.S. Secretary of State called delegates’ attention to Henry J. Kaiser’s highly efficient shipyard across the bay in Richmond, and held it up as an example of what was possible when people put aside their differences and concentrate on innovation. At the same time, Kaiser was busy turning his wartime health plan for shipyard workers into the first fully integrated, public health plan and health care delivery system, which eventually took the name Kaiser Permanente. Following tours of the shipyard, delegates broke their deadlock and resumed negotiations that resulted in the U.N. charter being signed.
Enduring commitment to the LGBTI community
Many participants in the day’s celebrations also attended an emotional luncheon at San Francisco’s City Hall designed to recognize the U.N.’s commitment to rights of the LGBTI community and launch the organization’s Free and Equal Campaign. Kaiser Permanente’s Baxter and Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Ronald Copeland, MD, FACS, were present to affirm Kaiser Permanente’s commitment to human rights for all people.
Attendees included family members of former San Francisco Board of Supervisors member Harvey Milk — the first openly gay person to serve in California politics, who was shot and killed 37 years ago in the very building hosting the lunch gathering. Milk’s relatives awarded the U.N. Secretary General a special human rights award for his commitment to LGBTI equality.
Ironically, on the very day of the U.N. celebration event, the United States Supreme Court affirmed the rights of same sex marriage across the country. The high court’s decision also coincided with San Francisco’s Pride Week activities — included the largest Pride Parade in the country, of which Kaiser Permanente is a major sponsor and participant.
Thousands of same sex supporters descended on San Francisco City Hall during the U.N. celebration activities, which included public presentation with the U.N. Secretary General, California Governor Jerry Brown, Rep. Pelosi and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee. The presentation was punctuated by frequent cheers from the assembled crowd — both inside and outside City Hall.
“Kaiser Permanente and the United Nations clearly share a commitment to diversity and inclusion for all people and to championing the realization of equality without exception,” Dr. Copeland said. “We are proud to celebrate the progress that has been made and are well aware of the distance we still must travel.”
“Ideals we share with the U.N. on solving inequity and disparity inspire me personally to push both of our organizations into greater collaboration and action,” Baxter said. “These are clearly the right things to do.”