The Affordable Care Act ushered in a series of reforms to health care over the last five years with some impressive results. Since its implementation, we have seen the number of the uninsured fall to 11 percent in 2015. At Kaiser Permanente, we were proud to be a part of this coverage expansion, extending Medicaid, Children's Health Insurance Program and our own unique Charitable Health coverage to almost 1 million people (938,336) in 2015, subsidized by our $1.8 billion investment.
Yet millions of Americans remain uninsured, and we know that expanding coverage is only part of the equation needed to make a quantifiable impact on individual and community health. Making a significant contribution toward solving the entire equation is the opportunity facing Kaiser Permanente and its Community Benefit program.
We can play an essential role in picking up where the Affordable Care Act left off and rise to the challenge of expanding access to affordable coverage and quality care for those left out of health care reform. Our Community Health Needs Assessment — a critical tool that helps us identify and measure the needs in a local community and deploy our resources accordingly — provides a foundation for how we think about the next chapter of health care reform. We can create a comprehensive strategy that brings all of Kaiser Permanente's Medicaid, Charitable Health Coverage and Medical Financial Assistance resources, and our extensive safety-net partnerships, to bear.
In 2015, we used our Community Health Needs Assessment to guide all of our investment in Community Benefit, activities such as bringing healthy food to corner stores in the impoverished Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco, partnering with Feeding America's Senior Nutrition Program in Southern California to increase access to healthy eating for residents living in food deserts, and supporting the Oregon Community Health Workers Association to create models of integrating community health workers in community and clinical settings. Now we have an opportunity to use our Community Needs Assessment to tailor care and coverage to the needs of our most vulnerable populations.
But to truly improve the health of all our members and our communities, we must look beyond our current strategies and toward deploying all of Kaiser Permanente's resources to address the root causes of poor health — social and environmental factors deep-seated in inequity. These factors include living in poverty, exposure to violence and lack of access to health-related resources such as quality education and toxin-free environments.
Our work now is to use all of our financial, technical, clinical and knowledge resources to help our members and communities realize total health — a healthy mind, body and spirit — in every environment, including school, work, neighborhood and at home.
On the ground, we are building on the accomplishments of our Community Health Initiatives — which reached 665,000 people in more than 50 communities across Kaiser Permanente's regions in 2015 — to support healthy eating and active living through environmental and policy changes. We are building on our Thriving Schools work, which reached 209,000 children in more than 300 schools across Kaiser Permanente's regions last year to make them safe, nurturing environments that support healthy eating and physical activity for students, staff and educators alike. We've expanded on our efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by taking on an ambitious set of goals for our Environmental Stewardship work.
This work includes building on how we care for our members, thinking beyond our traditional approaches to clinical care to address the social and economic issues that determine health and providing the services and support we all need to thrive.
At Kaiser Permanente, we are striving to use every resource at our disposal to achieve our mission to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and improve the health of our members and of the communities that we serve. Our Community Benefit work is at the heart of this mission. If we succeed at connecting our members and the communities we serve to not only the health care and healthy environments they deserve, but to the resources that will address social and economic inequity, we will realize that mission.
Raymond J. Baxter, PhD
Senior Vice President
Community Benefit, Research and Health Policy
Cynthia Telles, PhD
Chair, Community Benefit Committee
Board of Directors
Kaiser Foundation Hospitals
Kaiser Foundation Health Plan Inc.