OAKLAND, Calif. — For 25 years, Kaiser Permanente has presented interactive and timely educational theater to audiences throughout the United States. The organization’s Educational Theatre Program productions have tackled the most pressing health issues of the day, reaching an estimated 15 million children and adults with free, live performances.
The Kaiser Permanente Educational Theatre Program’s mission is to inspire audiences to make informed decisions about their health and to build stronger, healthier neighborhoods. Its presentations are delivered to schools and community venues throughout Kaiser Permanente’s eight regions, which serve nine states and the District of Columbia.
“There is not a single education theatre company that reaches the number of student and adults that Kaiser Permanente’s Educational Theatre Program reaches,” said Russell Granet, founder of Arts Education Resource in New York City. “It’s by far the largest educational theater company in the country.”
Each production is developed in collaboration with Kaiser Permanente physicians, health educators, and community advisory committees to ensure that the content is aligned with best practices in medicine and education, and that it is fun and well-received by audiences. Each of Kaiser Permanente’s eight regional theatre programs is uniquely developed to meet the specific needs and demographics of its communities.
Educational Theatre Program staff works closely with teams of health professionals, educators, parents and community advisory groups to create programs that meet the needs of the entire community. In addition to important messages like the benefit of healthy eating and physical activity, productions cover a broad array of important health topics from drug and alcohol abuse to literacy awareness. For example, “Secrets” and “What goes around” are about sexually transmitted diseases; “1 ½” and “Give peas a chance,” focuses on childhood obesity; “Intersections” and “Someone like me,” covers suicide prevention, and “Peace Signs” teaches students about conflict resolution.
Nearly two months after a recent production of “Peace Signs” at Kennedy Elementary School in San Jose, Calif. the principal began seeing results.
“We noticed according to school data that attendance had improved, that bullying had decreased in the school, that the citation number had decreased and the number of suspensions and expulsions had also decreased as a result of this program,” said Principal Linda Barker.
“Our educational theatre programs have been so successful because they’re direct and authentic. ETP speaks to the issues that young people think about and speaks to the issues that their parents worry about and that’s a combination you cannot beat,” said Raymond J Baxter, PhD, Kaiser Permanente’s senior vice president for Community Benefit, Research and Health Policy.
The majority of performances by the Educational Theatre Program are geared for students attending early elementary school through high school and are presented in public, private, or institutional school settings. However, several of Kaiser Permanente’s educational theatre programs are held in community venues and specifically designed to help adults, educators and parents address issues like aging, domestic violence and depression.
The Educational Theatre Programs is a key component of Kaiser Permanente’s commitment to creating total health through prevention and health education. More information about Kaiser Permanente’s Educational Theatre Program can be found at www.kp.org/etp.