In 2004 Kaiser Permanente launched its “Thrive” advertising campaign, which has been such a resounding success that it continues to this day.
An Associated Press article at the time explained why it was so different:
“They wanted to empower people to do something larger than choosing a health care provider,” said Mark Simon, executive vice president and creative director of Campbell-Ewald, the Michigan-based advertising agency that created the campaign.
The campaign struck a deep chord with Permanente physicians as well. In a 2006 UC Berkeley Regional Oral History Office interview, Kaiser Permanente physician David Sobel, MD, expressed his enthusiasm:
… we realized that, first of all, if we were to address the full range of health needs of our members as well as to reach out into the community and attract more members, we’d have to begin to change both the internal perception and the external perception of what Kaiser Permanente was really about; and going back in many respects to the origins which had strong emphasis on prevention and health promotion. And so we began working with an advertising campaign… and somebody there came up with the wonderful word “thrive” as a way of embodying our commitment to total health, not just to fix people, but to actually help them thrive.
But one lesson about history at Kaiser Permanente is that our great ideas are so great, sometimes we already had them.
In 2015 the ad campaign coined the slogan “Together we Thrive.” Well, sort of. Our archives show that the Kaiser Permanente Dental Program in Oregon and Washington was using it in January 2014; the 2013 Kaiser Permanente Community Benefit annual report used it on its cover.
And digging deeper, way down to February 1969 – The Pulse.
This was the new monthly newsletter by and for the employees of the Kaiser Foundation Medical Program in Oregon. This publication actually was the second incarnation of The Pulse, the first having been an employee newsletter in the mid-1940s. The masthead featured a logo adapted from Kaiser Engineers, still bearing the snappy slogan “Together We Build.” One of Henry J. Kaiser’s greatest strengths as a manager was encouraging collaborative work, so the phrase reflected a corporate reality that extended into health care.
It would be 46 years before that slogan would evolve to replace “build” with “thrive,” but I’m pretty sure that Henry J. Kaiser would have approved.
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“Kaiser Permanente’s support of the arts is both visionary and practical. By generating a sense of well-being, the artwork contributes to the main purpose of Kaiser Permanente – the business of keeping people well.”
-Jane Van Cleve, American Craft, June-July 1984
This week the brand-new Kaiser Permanente Mission Bay Medical Offices opened with a splash – including a splash of color from eight huge digitally reproduced murals by Bay Area artist Anthony Holdsworth. Holdsworth was commissioned last year to paint a series of eight iconic San Francisco neighborhoods that represent the cultural and topographical diversity of the city.
The artist’s observations are displayed in adjacent text panels. “The Trieste” on the ninth floor offers this story:
The Caffe Trieste has been a center of intellectual life in North Beach since it opened in 1954. It is famously associated with the Beat poetry movement and the script for The Godfather, which was written in this cafe. I felt that no painting of the Trieste would be complete without including the founder “Papa Gianni,” Giovanni Giotta, and his friend, poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who founded City Lights Books and often frequents the cafe. Both men are in their mid-nineties. Women who posed specifically for this painting are (from left to right) cafe regulars Brigid McCormick, Wanda Chan, and Rose Gomes. Also included is Ida Pantaleo Zoubi, who runs the café.
The 10-foot-tall murals are on permanent display in the reception areas of eight floors. The original paintings are part of a solo exhibition at the SFMOMA Artists’ Gallery at Fort Mason, which continues through March 27.
But “big picture” vision has always been a hallmark of Henry J. Kaiser and Kaiser Permanente, and these are not the first large visual installations at Kaiser facilities.
In 1982, the new Kaiser Permanente medical office in Salem, Ore., commissioned a “floating fascia” of 84 sculpted 6×6-foot Alaska cedar panels by noted local artist Roy Setziol. The panels graced the entrance area and captured “the significant moments of family and human interactions with medical science.”
These fascia were consistent with the practices in the Northwest service area of supporting the arts. When Bess Kaiser Hospital opened in Portland, Ore., in 1959, artworks by Northwest artists were leased from the Rental Gallery of the Portland Art Museum and hung throughout the hospital. Eventually many of the pieces were purchased, forming the core of a permanent collection and displayed in Kaiser Permanente facilities in Oregon and Washington. This was the origin of Kaiser Permanente’s policy of allocating a portion of the construction budget for interior finishing to the purchase of Northwest arts and crafts.
Going even further back, in 1966 architect and designer Henrik Bull commissioned Bay Area artist Emmy Lou Packard (who worked as an illustrator in the Kaiser Richmond shipyards during World War II) to create a huge concrete and mosaic wall-mounted bas relief of “The Peaceable Kingdom.” This was the artistic centerpiece for the Mirabeau Restaurant at Henry J. Kaiser’s flagship Kaiser Center in Oakland, built in 1960. Packard’s son Don Cairns recalls that his mother’s sense of humor came into play when she used glass taxidermy eyes for the creatures – but swapped them out, so the lion had lamb’s eyes, and the lamb… you get it. The device apparently upset some patrons, and they were removed.
Henry J. Kaiser owned the Willys Jeep line of vehicles between 1953 and 1970, with manufacturing and assembly plants all over the world. Slides in our archives reveal a fascinating mosaic mural at the plant in Brisbane, Australia, circa 1963. It depicts the various steps in design, casting, manufacturing, and assembly for those iconic and rugged machines. The fate of this mural is unknown.
Art – it does help keep people well. Paint on, and thrive.
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The 100th Indianapolis 500 will be held Sunday May 29, 2016, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway –modestly described as “The greatest spectacle in racing” at “The Racing Capital of the World.” This is one of the most iconic of American events, with drivers racing 200 laps around a 2.5-mile oval circuit.
All that noise and danger may seem a far stretch from the “total health” mission of Kaiser Permanente, but industrialist founder Henry J. Kaiser loved vehicles, and one of his companies played a role in the history of the Indy 500.
Few people associate diesel engines with high performance. These utilitarian engines are the workhorses of industry, thumping along forever with little need for maintenance. But diesels were initially designed for stationary use, and later were adapted for marine applications. However, their fuel injectors were notoriously prone to fouling, so operating them when exposed to dusty outdoor conditions was beyond their intended application.
But Henry J. Kaiser was always pushing boundaries. When building roads during the late 1920s, young contractor Kaiser tried to convince the Caterpillar Tractor Company to put diesel engines in their crawler tractors because the fuel was so much cheaper. When they declined, Kaiser bought three Caterpillar Model 60 and three Monarch 75 tractors (Monarch operated between 1916-1928, when it was bought out by Allis-Chalmers; Caterpillar is still in business) and replaced their gasoline engines with 65 horsepower marine diesels made by the Atlas-Imperial Company of Oakland, Calif.
They were heavier than gas engines, and came with problems of their own which Kaiser discovered while using them on a levee restoration project along the Mississippi River in the late 1920s. A 1942 Life magazine profile on Henry J. Kaiser noted that “At first, they stripped transmissions, twisted driveshafts and generally knocked apart the machines he put them in.” But Kaiser and fellow earth mover Bob LeTorneau worked out the kinks, and eventually diesels would become the standard for heavy equipment.
Fast forward to 1952. Really, really fast forward.
This was the year that Kaiser Aluminum paired up with the Cummins Engine Company to produce a diesel race car, #28, driven by “Flying” Freddie Agabashian (1913-1989). It wasn’t the first diesel to whip around the Indianapolis track – that happened in 1931, when a Cummins-powered car was the first to run the entire race nonstop – but it was the first to use a turbocharger.
Turbocharging is relatively common now, but back then it was innovative to use an engine’s exhaust gases to pressurize the intake charge and provide more power without increasing engine size. Number 28’s specially designed engine lay on its side 5 degrees from flat, to lower the car’s center of gravity and handle better on Indy’s left-only banked turns. It displaced 401 cubic inches (6.6 liters), the maximum allowed by Indy rules, and pumped out 350 horsepower.
At least one newspaper account called it a “Freak diesel job.” But this “freak” was fast. #28 captured the pole (the first starting position, which holds high prestige at Indianapolis) with the fastest single-lap time (139.104 mph) and four-lap time (138.010 mph) in Indianapolis Motor Speedway history. And it was the first diesel to do so. It was also the first Indy car ever tested for aerodynamics in a wind tunnel.
Alas, in the race the Kaiser-Cummins Diesel Special ended up only placing 27th. The engine was retired midway through when the turbocharger inlet became clogged with tire rubber debris from the track.
The March 1953 issue of Kaiser Aluminum, published by the Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Corporation, featured this story:
A blazing-fast crystal ball on wheels stole the show last year at the Indianapolis Speedway classic . . . and U.S. automotive engineers are still taking looks into it. They’re analyzing performance figures on the powerful Cummins Diesel race car and predicting startling advances in motor power on future American highways.
They see today’s high rpm Diesel engines transformed into even lighter weight units, with even higher speeds, powering more trucks up hill and down with equal ease. And they even see the day when easy-on-the fuel Diesels will possibly compete with gasoline engines in the passenger car market.
Cummins engineers knew that in order to compete with the higher rotative speeds of the gasoline engine, it would be necessary to reduce the weight which the heavier Diesel had to pull. By their extensive use of aluminum (and magnesium), they were able to give Agabashian a sleek, slim beauty of only 2,100 pounds (dry).
Even without a win, the car was such a threat to the racing status quo that soon afterwards the rules were changed to discourage large diesels. But there is always a relationship between racing and the advancement of the general public good; in this case, the dream of using diesel engines and aluminum components to produce faster and more fuel-efficient civilian vehicles. The KA News article posed the question about what might be next – “…A hundred-mile-per-hour truck?”
Indeed – with Henry J. Kaiser, one was never sure what could come next.
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