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Cynthia Telles: Solving Community Health Issues at Their Source

The overarching goal of Kaiser Permanente has always been to provide high quality and affordable care, and improve the health of the more than 68 million people that live in the communities it serves. As board chair of the Kaiser Permanente Community Health Committee, Dr. Cynthia Telles serves in the role of strategic oversight of the organization’s approach to community health, including taking an in-depth look at how social conditions impact the way communities function in the health sphere. A significant part of this effort has been a focus around three major factors for increasing the prevalence of health carehealth care options in underserved communities: improving conditions for health and equity; ensuring health access for all; and advancing the future of community health.


These factors inform Kaiser Permanente’s strategy for community support and focus on ensuring the provision of superior health care. Kaiser Permanente has long been dedicated to providing services to people who lack them, spending more than $2.3 billion in 2017 alone to assist those most in need, with Medicaid and medical financial support. By pushing for the availability of nutritious food, affordable housing, and resources for school systems, Kaiser Permanente is seeking to drive improvement in key factors that influence a community’s quality of health.  


Community change is most lasting when it is co-designed and created by those living within the community. As such, Kaiser Permanente is committed to engaging personally with community leaders and members to best understand what programs and efforts would be most impactful. Through this collaborative process, the organization has driven community progress by awarding more than 2,000 grants to fund efforts that promote healthy habits and accessibility to care. Throughout 2017, Kaiser also made more than $240 million in direct investments to improve the conditions for health equality in communities of greatest need.


One of the most pressing aspects of community health, besides engagement on a grassroots level, is the importance of looking towards the future and embracing innovation. Kaiser Permanente has been on the leading edge of advancements in healthcare, especially in seeking new ways to increase speed and capacity to achieve goals and provide positive outcomes for those in underserved communities. By not only adopting innovative techniques but also identifying what difficult problems might be faced in the future, Kaiser Permanente is working to stay ahead of the curve and develop creative and flexible solutions for health care accessibility and delivery. One simple but critical way that the organization helps drive the future of health care is by inspiring younger generations to pursue health careers health care through award-winning internship programs and hands-on Youth Career Days.


By understanding the communities it serves at both a broad and individual level, Kaiser Permanente has consistently made large-scale strides towards the advancement and availability of beneficial health services. As the future of health care continues to evolve, Kaiser Permanente remains steadfast in its mission to support communities in developing healthier futures.