Kaiser Permanente Parks Investment Supports Healthy Communities

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In celebration of Earth Day on April 22, Kaiser Permanente makes a major investment that expands its environmental focus.

Over the years Kaiser Permanente has won numerous awards for making its facilities and health care practices environmentally sustainable.

As the world celebrates its 46th Earth Day on Friday, April 22, Kaiser Permanente has more than two million new reasons to feel good about the region’s commitment to healthy environments: The organization will be making an investment of $2 million in 11 organizations that are working to give more people the chance to enjoy and preserve local, regional, state, and national parks.

“Instinctively we know that being outdoors has a way of making us feel better, and research has established that having access to natural areas is vital to our overall well-being,” said Yener Balan, MD, FAPA, executive director for Behavioral Health in Kaiser Permanente Northern California. “However, while everyone can benefit from being outside, residents in many low-income communities face significant barriers in accessing safe outdoor spaces, and often times, can have higher rates of chronic stress and obesity.”

The investment focuses on increasing the use of parks by people who have historically faced economic, ethnic, age, and gender disparities that impact their ability to visit or enjoy parks. The grants also support the long-term sustainability of parks with advocacy efforts that aim to increase awareness about the powerful role parks play in promoting public health.

“Parks are precious resources that belong to all people,” said Rachael Baker, Regional Support Services and Environmental Stewardship manager for Kaiser Permanente Northern California. “These investments will make a big difference in making parks more appealing and accessible to hundreds of disadvantaged youth and seniors that live in communities hit hardest by pollution.”

Two grant awardees — Youth Outside, an Oakland group, and the Outdoor Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based organization — will expand the reach of the grants with support for more than a dozen other community organizations across Northern California.

“This support from Kaiser Permanente will enable us to expand our grant-making and get more kids into parks who would otherwise not have the opportunity to do so,” said Kim Moore Bailey, executive director at Youth Outside. In addition to providing grants, the organization provides counseling and coaching for outdoor educators and civic leaders with the goal of giving all youth the chance to experience nature.

Christine Fanning, executive director of the Outdoor Foundation, said that Kaiser Permanente’s investment brings together a wide-range of stakeholders that are important to the parks. The foundation works with manufacturers, distributors, and retailers that are all part of the outdoor industry, helping them create consumer-facing philanthropy programs that support outdoor recreation.

“It’s time we all joined together to ensure that people — from all backgrounds — are engaged, active, and have access to the great outdoors,” said Fanning.

Read about the grantees.

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