SEATTLE — Studies show that theater helps kids take in and retain health information, aiding positive behavior change. That’s why Kaiser Permanente Washington is launching, with a $600,000 investment, the Kaiser Permanente Educational Theatre Program, expected to reach more than 18,000 students across the state this school year.
In Washington, the program takes shape through a partnership with Seattle Children’s Theatre, where professional artists work closely with our health care providers, as well as with teachers and students, to develop plays and workshops that inspire healthy choices and build stronger communities.
While the program is new here, it is not new to Kaiser Permanente. What began as a single play for elementary school children has become a series of award-winning theatrical productions, experiential learning workshops, and youth engagement programs across the country. In 2016, more than 250,000 students were reached in 330 K-12 schools nationwide.
“We’re excited to bring this programming to Washington as we partner with our local schools to address the physical and emotional health issues that are most pressing to students,” said Susan Mullaney, president, Kaiser Permanente Washington.
Bullying is focus of ‘Above Between Below’
The first play in Kaiser Permanente Washington, “Above Between Below,” was developed for middle-school students and focuses on bullying. The play shows how aggression and shaming on social media can hurt others and helps the audience understand how they can help prevent and stop bullying.
“This play shows how vulnerable we all are,” says Wellesley Chapman, MD, a physician with Washington Permanente Medical Group and a member of the Educational Theatre Program advisory group. “We can all identify with the characters — the bullied person, the one who is bullying and the onlooker — which makes its message really hit home.”
Over the course of the school year, the play will tour 31 schools statewide throughout King, Pierce, Snohomish, Spokane and Whitman counties. The multifaceted program also includes a conflict-resolution program for elementary school students, offering an immersive and supportive platform to explore health and community.
Part of a larger vision for Thriving Schools
A long-standing focus of Kaiser Permanente efforts to improve health, and schools continue to be one of the best places to reach members and the community.
The Educational Theatre Program is just one aspect of how Kaiser Permanente Washington is bringing Thriving Schools — a broader national health effort directed toward students, staff and teachers in K-12 school districts served by the organization — to life in Washington.
Here are just a few of the other ways Kaiser Permanente Washington is taking action:
- Participating in a nationwide digital campaign to promote health and wellness for school faculty. Launched last week, the #TeachersTake5 campaign targets teachers, administrators and school employees in over 20,000 schools in the U.S. to take five minutes a day with their colleagues to be healthier. #TeachersTake5 provides free resources, trainings and assistance for employee wellness practices and programs.
- Installing “Buddy Benches.” Kaiser Permanente Washington will install 30 benches this year in Spokane-area schools to promote inclusion and social connection among students. The first benches were installed in the Freeman School District in September.
- Providing more than $2 million in care for more than 7,500 students through school-based clinics at eight locations in King County and at Orion Health Center, where we reach 1,000 homeless and at-risk youth.
About Kaiser Permanente
Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. We are recognized as one of America’s leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Founded in 1945, Kaiser Permanente has a mission to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve 11.8 million members in eight states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal Permanente Medical Group physicians, specialists and team of caregivers. Our expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the-art care delivery and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education and the support of community health. For more information, go to: kp.org/share.