Archive for May, 2013

Healthy lifestyles: tough to achieve, worth the effort

posted on May 31, 2013

By Ginny McPartland, Heritage writer

Kaiser Permanente’s Northwest Region initiated its Freedom from Fat program in 1989. Exercise was an integral part of the healthy living program. This photo of Donna Dean, a Health Plan member, William Cooper, associate regional manager of the Northwest Region, and Chris Overton, health education staff member, appeared on the cover of the Spring 1989 Spectrum, a magazine for Kaiser Permanente employees.

Kaiser Permanente founding physician Sidney Garfield caught on early that changing people’s habits would have positive results for their health. Urging his patients to avoid accidents by following safety guidelines and eating right to avoid health problems was a no-brainer for Garfield. Everyone would be happier and healthier, and the need for costly medical care could be minimized.

Voila! Prepaid care with an emphasis on prevention. Garfield adopted this theme in 1933, and Kaiser Permanente leaders have held this as a predominant tenet ever since.

Garfield’s interest in nutrition and exercise programs for shipyard workers in the 1940s, multiphasic examinations (annual physicals) in the 1950s, data processing of patient records in the 1960s, health education centers in the 1970s and the Total Health Project in the 1980s all fed into the push to promote healthy lifestyles and prevent illness.

Newsletters in the World War II Kaiser shipyards constantly reminded workers to eat three square meals a day and avoid too much fat and sugar. “Are you starving?” one article asked. “You can be starved without being hungry. . . Are you aware: 24 million man-hours per month (nationally) are lost through minor illnesses preventable by better nutrition?”

‘Are You Starving’ article in the Oct. 6, 1944, issue of the Kaiser Richmond Shipyard newsletter Fore ‘N Aft. The message: Eat healthy food and stay fit.

The Kaiser child care centers served healthy meals, and parents could buy nutritious family dinners to take home when they collected their offspring at the end of the day. Shipyard management sponsored intramural sports teams to help workers blow off steam and stay fit.

Screening workers for unhealthy habits

In 1950 Dr. Garfield responded to labor leader Harry Bridges’ request for a preventive care screening program for the members of his longshoremen’s and warehousemen’s union. The examinations, union-mandated for all workers, highlighted lifestyle problems and educated the men on how to avoid heart disease and other chronic illness.

In the 1960s, the first computer technology recorded the examination results so physicians could track their patients’ progress electronically and identify trends that could aid in the care and treatment of other patients, even in subsequent decades.

The 1970s saw the debut of the health education centers in which patients could seek disease prevention information and partake in groundbreaking programs to help them maintain healthy lifestyles and a healthy weight. (This was the beginning of Kaiser Permanente’s Healthy Living centers that offer a myriad of programs designed to preserve good physical and mental health and help patients manage chronic conditions.)

Health appraisal gains momentum

Health appraisal programs were established in a number of Kaiser Permanente locations, and healthy members were encouraged to visit the clinic when they were well, not just when illness struck. They filled out questionnaires and discussed their health status with practitioners who tracked their lifestyles and gave advice on staying well.

The transparent woman was a prominent exhibit in the first Oakland Health Education Center. Instructors could light up various parts of the body and describe the functions for visitors to the center. This photo appeared on the cover of the Kaiser Permanente’s 1967 annual report.

In the 1980s, Dr. Garfield conducted the Total Health research project in which he expanded the health assessment theme and had new well members diverted to a Total Health Center in which the emphasis was on promoting healthy lifestyles.

In the 1990s, Kaiser Permanente researchers participated in studies to test the success of a dietary regimen meant to reduce blood pressure and help prevent heart attacks and strokes. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension approach called for a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, fish, poultry and nuts.

The participants who followed DASH experienced a significant reduction in 24-hour blood pressure. The others, who continued to eat red meat, sweets and sugary soda, saw no improvement in blood pressure. Following the study, the DASH approach became the basis of Kaiser Permanente’s teaching about the prevention of hypertension and related conditions.

Also in the 1990s, Kaiser Permanente physician Vincent Felitti discovered while running a health appraisal clinic in the San Diego area that some patients needed help overcoming childhood trauma before they could change unhealthy behavior. Felitti conducted the Adverse Childhood Experience study and urged the consideration of psychological as well as physical issues in assessing a patient’s ability to adopt a healthy lifestyle.

Thriving in the 21st century

Kaiser Permanente offers a wide variety of healthy living classes at its facilities in all regions. Here, students enjoy an exercise class in Oakland, Calif.

In 2004 Kaiser Permanente launched its Thrive advertising campaign, which spotlighted the health plan’s continuing emphasis on healthy living to help patients stay well. In the 20-Teens, the organization gave birth to other behavior change modalities, including online healthy lifestyle programs, Healthy Eating and Active Living community programs and free classes open to the public.

In 2012, Kaiser Permanente launched “Every Body Walk!” a campaign to get literally everyone up on their feet to take the first small steps that can lead to success in achieving a healthy lifestyle.

Today, patients who choose to alter their habits to achieve better health can get help in Kaiser Permanente’s Healthy Living classes, by enrolling in online Healthy Lifestyle programs, and by accessing the bonanza of health information on

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Kaiser-Frazer auto-racing heritage recalled during Indy 500 weekend

posted on May 25, 2013

By Ginny McPartland, Heritage writer

November 1950 magazine ad for the new Henry J economy coupe

More than 60 years after Henry J. Kaiser debuted his namesake economy car, the “Henry J,” racing enthusiasts around the country still revere – and race – their hopped-up versions of the 1950s-built six-cylinder coupe.

Although outclassed by any race car in this weekend’s Indianapolis 500, the Henry J has had its share of attention, if not glory, over the years. is devoted to everything Henry J, and enthusiasts meet there to share tips for restoration and to score rare replacement parts.

And yet, the Henry J was never meant to be a racing car.

Henry J. Kaiser and Joseph W. Frazer started the Kaiser-Frazer Corporation in 1945 to fill the demand after World War II for new automobiles. During the war, virtually no civilian vehicles were manufactured so factories could focus on the tanks, jeeps and trucks needed for combat.

The company produced a few different cars, including the Manhattan, a large sedan, the Darrin, a sports car, and the Henry J, a lower-priced vehicle for the masses. Kaiser believed that every American should be able to afford an automobile.

Who knew the car could compete?

Hemi-J, souped-up Henry J economy car from the 1950s, manufactured by Kaiser-Frazer Corporation. Photo from

The fancy styling of today’s rejuvenated and supercharged Henry J is a far cry from what Henry Kaiser envisioned. In a magazine advertisement featuring the new model, the car was billed as: smart as an Irish setter; tough as a steer; thrifty as a squirrel and nimble as a kitten.

The ad pictured a family of four riding comfortably and sensibly in a blue Henry J with white-wall tires. Yet hot rodders soon discovered that the light weight and stripped down design of the Henry J made it the perfect candidate for stock car racing. A Web search reveals literally hundreds of hot rodders caught the bug soon after the Henry J’s release.

In June 1960, “Hot Rod Magazine” ran an article about a Henry J converted to a race car by Bill Waddill of Swartz Creek, Mich., not far from where Kaiser and Frazer manufactured the once tame vehicle.

According to “Hot Rod,” Waddill cut the 1953 Henry J in half at the door centerline and “chopped” the top but kept the original body proportions throughout the conversion. He competed in the 1959 Nationals in Detroit, “making a creditable showing before losing out in the run-offs.”

Waddill sold his Henry J in the early 1960s, and the new owner painted the car red and named it “Wicked Mary.”

Indy 500 engineer invents heart/lung pump

Henry J. Kaiser in “Henry J” car on lawn of Claremont Golf and Country Club, Oakland, 1951

For their part in the creation of the Henry J – and the other Kaiser-Frazer vehicles manufactured in the 1940s and ’50s –Kaiser and Frazer were inducted in 2010 into the Automobile Hall of Fame in Dearborn, Mich., just outside of Detroit.

Although the Henry J could never qualify for a race such as the Indianapolis 500, Henry Kaiser, a man for all seasons, had his connection to the prestigious contest. One of Kaiser’s associates, Barney Navarro, considered one of the fathers of hot rodding, a racing engineer and inventor, developed the innovative 199 cubic-inch 6-cylinder Rambler motor producing more than 700 horsepower for the Indy 500 in 1967.

A speed boat racer, Navarro was at the helm of Kaiser’s Chrysler Hemi-powered boat when it set a speed record in the late 1950s. He also raced flat bottom boats with Henry Kaiser.  At Kaiser’s behest, Navarro invented a heart and lung pump that was used from the late 1960s into the 1980s for open heart surgeries at Kaiser Foundation Hospitals.

So when actor Michael Peña says “ladies and gentlemen, start your engines” this weekend, know that the indefatigable Henry J. Kaiser left his mark at The Brickyard.

Henry Kaiser and sons talk about the new Henry J  in 1950 film clip
This clip shows the first few minutes of a film promoting the 1951 model year Kaiser-Frazer cars in the lobby of San Francisco’s Fairmont Hotel March 29, 1950. Featured are Henry J. Kaiser and his sons Edgar Kaiser and Henry Jr. The highlight of this show was the low-priced “Henry J,” named after K-F’s chairman, Henry J. Kaiser; here he explains that “The purpose is… [to address] the need for low-cost transportation.”  Production of six-cylinder models began in July 1950, and four-cylinder production started shortly after Labor Day, 1950. Sale to the public began September 28, 1950.


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Henry Kaiser set bar for sharing innovations with public

posted on May 23, 2013

By Lincoln Cushing, Heritage writer

From Kaiser Richmond Shipyard newsletter, Fore ‘N’ Aft, Nov. 12, 1943: “Bond winners Ernest Terry and Ray Worley discuss the merits of Ray’s improved rigger’s hook. This month fifteen shipbuilders from Richmond’s Yard Three won awards for production improvements.

What is the right way to reward creativity and hard work? What is an appropriate balance between corporate ownership and the public good?  These issues form the root of copyright and patent law and have shifted over time and place.

Contrary to the practices of most major companies, however, Kaiser Permanente – and its earlier entity, Kaiser Industries – have long embraced the concept that sharing is not only good for the community, it’s responsible organizational practice.

On November 17, 1942, Henry J. Kaiser recommended that an independent federal agency be formed to license all new inventions and to distribute their benefits throughout industry.

His comments were published in many news outlets, including Billboard magazine’s December 1942 issue:

“Original ideas, suggestions and developments should be interchanged among allied industries, such as airplane (production) and shipbuilding and the steel industry,” Kaiser told a U.S. Senate military subcommittee studying technological mobilization.

He said he thought his position might be considered revolutionary, but added:  “Industry will be more productive if patents are available to all industries able to use them. (After the war), compensation for their use should go to the individual as an incentive and not to the company that employs him (or her).”

Billboard’s article reported, “Workers in the Kaiser shipyards are encouraged to submit new ideas and techniques, and a prize is awarded each week for the best suggestion. In addition, the author of an accepted proposal works with an engineer in preparing sketches to illustrate an improved process.”

Article on shipyard innovation, Richmond Kaiser Shipyard newsletter, Fore ‘N’ Aft, Sept. 24, 1943: “Ralph Kinney won a $25 war bond for his adjustable template, which fits a huge shell plate to the stern casting, allowing for unavoidable variations. The job formerly took 29 man-hours, now it takes one.”

Kaiser told the committee that his industries made their data available to other builders, and likewise, he benefited from the findings of others.

Sharing tradition continues

That “revolutionary” position was not just a flash in the pan. Kaiser Permanente, Henry J. Kaiser’s most enduring legacy, has continued that tradition.

Kaiser Permanente’s fourth CEO, George Halvorson, who has led the organization since 2002, has long supported an open approach to innovation.

Some of these initiatives include:

The Care Connectivity Consortium includes Kaiser Permanente, the Mayo Clinic, Geisinger Health System of Pennsylvania, Intermountain Healthcare based in Utah, and Group Health Cooperative, based in Seattle.

The consortium is dedicated to developing systems that will allow seamless sharing of health information among provider groups.

The consortium is also committed to working toward a future where timely access to health information improves the quality of care for all patients.

The Partnership for Quality Care is a coalition of not-for-profit health care providers and health care workers dedicated to guaranteed, affordable, high-quality health care for every man, woman, and child in America. The partnership strives to improve patient care as well as prevent and treat chronic conditions by sharing best practices.

Members include Kaiser Permanente, several units of the Service Employees International Union, the Greater New York Hospital Association, Group Health Cooperative and HealthPartners in Minnesota.

In 2008, Kaiser Permanente CEO Halvorson noted: “Leading health care providers have already implemented programs that contain costs, expand access, and most importantly, improve the quality of care for chronic patients. That points the way to nationwide reform.”

Banding together to beat HIV

The HIV Interregional Initiative, a cooperative effort among all Kaiser Permanente regions and Group Health Cooperative, represents the second largest provider of integrated HIV care in the United States; the largest provider is the Veterans Administration.

Sponsors of the initiative are Kaiser Permanente Foundation Health Plan and The Permanente Federation, which represents the national interests of the Permanente Medical Groups.

The Care Management Institute, a partnership between the federation and the health plan, has developed the first clinical guidelines in the United States for HIV/AIDS treatment and the appropriate use of related drugs.

The HIV Interregional Initiative works with Kaiser Permanente’s national pharmacy purchasers to get the best prices for HIV drugs.  Research using Kaiser Permanente’s electronic health records has led to exceptional success in treating patients with HIV.

In 2012, Robert Pearl, MD, executive director and CEO of The Permanente Medical Group, noted: “Our success in the treatment of patients with HIV/AIDS results from the excellence of our clinicians, our advanced [information technology] systems, our integrated delivery system and our effective coordination across specialties.”

Kaiser Permanente assists health care providers and community health clinics across the country in improving their HIV patient care by sharing its clinical best practices, provider and patient education materials, training and other expertise.

Genetic research for better chronic care

The Kaiser Permanente Research Program on Genes, Environment, and Health is one of the largest research projects in the United States to examine the genetic and environmental factors that can increase risk for chronic conditions such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s disease, and asthma.

With DNA collected from 500,000 consenting California health plan members, the project will link comprehensive electronic health records, data on relevant behavioral and environmental factors, as well as genetic information.

Working in collaboration with other scientists across the nation and around the world, researchers hope to translate project findings into improvements in preventive care and treatment.

Henry J. Kaiser started something in 1942 that continues to drive Kaiser Permanente’s quest, 71 years later, to improve health care and access to treatment for all Americans.

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Physician, Kaiser Permanente President, Ironworker

posted on May 17, 2013

By Lincoln Cushing, Heritage writer

In the long history of Kaiser Permanente, several executives—including Henry J. Kaiser himself—worked their way up from poverty. Clifford Keene, MD, was another. Keene was the first president and CEO of Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and Health Plan. See his story in the May 2013 issue of Hank, the Kaiser Permanente Labor Management Partnership magazine, about Keene’s pride in having both been an ironworker and a surgeon.

He reflected on it when commenting on a successful infant bowel surgery while serving as a cancer specialist at the University of Michigan State Hospital at the end of the 1930s:

“When I was in the army I further developed my interest in bowel surgery, and reconstruction of all kinds, and also in plastic procedures, orthopedic procedures, all of which were an extension of my interest in doing things with my hands. I [had been] a steel worker and it was satisfying to correct things with my hands.”

Here’s a link to U.C. Berkeley’s Regional Oral History Office 1985 interview.

Keene ironworker photos
Ironworkers at Niacet Chemical Company, Niagara Falls, New York, 1928; Cliff Keene second from left. 1929 union card, International Association of Bridge, Ornamental, and Structural Ironworkers. Images courtesy Steve Gilford, from the personal collection of Clifford Keene.


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