By Pauline Sze, genKP community benefit lead

Whether it’s close proximity to affordable healthy foods, equitable access to healthcare services, or safe routes to schools and homes – healthcare is at the center of the social justice movement. Over a hundred Kaiser Permanente Community Benefit leads gathered together in downtown San Francisco on March 20, 2014 as part of the 2014 Community Benefit Summit. This was an event put on by the Program Office Community Benefit program to advance the thinking on key challenges and opportunities that are facing Community Benefit and how we can align them to Kaiser Permanente’s strategic imperatives.

Dr. Raymond Baxter, senior vice president of Community Benefit, Research and Health Policy at Kaiser Permanente, delivered a thought-provoking keynote that outlined his vision for Kaiser Permanente to be a leader in Total Health. This vision for Total Health encompasses a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being for all. This moves us beyond looking solely at the hospitals and clinics that we operate, but more closely at the environments and communities that play a critical role in shaping our health on a day to day basis.

Slide from Dr. Raymond Baxter’s Presentation, “Where We Are, Where We’re Going: Challenges and Opportunities for Community Benefit” via http://share.kaiserpermanente.org/article/2014-community-benefit-summit/

The message for Total Health became even clearer when Dr. Baxter projected a map of the health equities of the Bay Area. This map highlighted different pockets of the region that have drastically different health outcomes. What struck a chord was that the health outcomes that were being displayed on this map were specifically those of Kaiser Permanente employees who have the same access to healthcare coverage. This demonstrated what an important role that other factors play in healthcare, such as the environment, income status, and education. Dr. Baxter urged attendees to look at health equity and what Community Benefit can do to close the inequity gap, and that “if we stand for health, we must stand for equity.”

Share your thoughts in the comments section below on what health equity means to you and your ideas for how to close the gap on health inequity.