OAKLAND, Calif. -- Kaiser Permanente, the nation's largest integrated health system, announced a series of actions – including $60 million in joint investments and $40 million in grant funding – to address systemic racism and lack of economic opportunities that have persisted for far too long and prevented communities of color, and especially Black communities, from achieving total health. This announcement comes as Kaiser Permanente deepens its 75-year commitment to equity and inclusion and sends a clear message that the organization stands with those who are fighting for equity and social justice.
"The tragic murder of George Floyd and so many others has reverberated around the world, pushing us to demand overdue change to a status quo that keeps communities of color in the margins and holds us all back as a society," said Greg A. Adams, chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente. "As a country, this is a moment to define who we are and what we stand for. We must take strong action to stop the physical, psychological, economic and social impacts of inequity and systemic racism so that we can create healthier communities where everybody, regardless of their skin color, can feel safe and thrive."
As a critical step toward supporting communities in overcoming systemic and structural disadvantages, Kaiser Permanente will provide support to more than 2,000 businesses owned by Black and other underrepresented people across the country. Communities of color are disproportionately impacted by a lack of economic opportunity, living under sustained financial strain that creates multiple barriers to good health. The health crisis and economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic are hitting low-income and communities of color – particularly Black communities – disproportionately hard, threatening to widen the health equity gap in even further.
To support businesses led by Black and other underrepresented individuals, Kaiser Permanente and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), the nation's largest community development organization, have launched a $60 million investment partnership to strengthen businesses in the wake of COVID-19. The partnership will provide business loans of $100,000 to $4 million. Kaiser Permanente is also designating $15 million in grant dollars to increase access to formal training, business networks, and recovery and growth capital to help businesses led by Black and other underrepresented groups overcome systemic economic disadvantage. Pacific Community Ventures and the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC) – two organizations with expertise in the needs of these small-businesses owners – will be initial partners in this work.
"All across the country, we can see that health and wealth are inextricably linked.
"Creating pathways for people to get back to work in quality jobs, and for small businesses to get on solid ground and grow, is so important for the well-being of the nation at large," said Maurice A. Jones, LISC president and CEO. "This new partnership with Kaiser Permanente not only helps small businesses sustain their operations during the pandemic, but it also looks to the future— strengthening the economic infrastructure of our communities so that families and businesses can thrive."
Kaiser Permanente also announced actions to help end systemic racism and break the cycles of trauma and chronic stress that contribute to poor health outcomes.
Kaiser Permanente was one of the first health care organizations to recognize the link between trauma and health through the landmark adverse childhood events, or ACEs, study it conducted along with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Today it is understood that traumatic childhood events – which include systemic racism as well as abuse, neglect and household dysfunction – are associated with a long-lasting, exaggerated chronic stress response that has been linked to chronic health conditions, including an increase in mental health issues. Previous studies have indicated that those with 4 or more ACEs are 12 times more likely to attempt suicide and those with 6 or more ACEs have a 20-year shorter life expectancy. Research has also shown that Black people experience 11 percent more ACEs than White people at all income levels.
Kaiser Permanente is designating an additional $25 million in grants to build upon its work to address ACEs and trauma and to support grassroots efforts to end systemic racism. In the coming weeks, Kaiser Permanente will solicit proposals from community based organizations, particularly those that are led or governed by Black people or other people of color, that are focused on dismantling discriminatory institutional practices and structures and/or on promoting healing from chronic stress, trauma and grief that stems from systemic racism and social injustice.
Kaiser Permanente is also stepping up its commitment to workplace inclusiveness and supplier diversity. This internal work will build upon the organization's existing commitment to the Billion Dollar Roundtable and related efforts to spend almost $2 billion per year on women-, LGBTQ+-, veteran-, individuals of color-, and individuals with disabilities-owned enterprises. Efforts to improve workplace inclusiveness will take the shape of a workforce equity analysis to identify improvement areas and redesign core talent programs to reflect inclusion; adopting science-based strategies to further remove bias and racial inequities from the employee and physician experience; and an accelerated approach to health equity through a new advisory board.
For more information, visit About.KaiserPermanente.org.