Admittedly, things have been really tough at work lately, for a variety of reasons. Last Friday, I received the following letter via email, and it was enough to remind me why I chose to do this all in the first place.


A Letter from the CEO

Dear KP colleague,

What are the issues that children face in school these days?

We all know some of the more challenging issues that show up on the macro list for children – peer pressure, bullying, drugs, being new, adolescence, food choices, sexually transmitted diseases, prejudice, intergroup conflicts, personal episodes of anger, remorse or grief, being victimized, being sad. It’s a long list.

So what does that list of challenges and issues for elementary, middle school and high school students have to do with Kaiser Permanente – and what exactly am I celebrating this week?

I am celebrating the fact that we have members of our Kaiser Permanente staff who, in every one of our Regions, go from school to school putting on plays, skits, training sessions, and musical events that deal directly with that set of issues.

This is not a small effort.

Our Kaiser Permanente theatre team performed for over 589,000 students last year alone. The number will be even higher this year.

We don’t just put on plays; we meet first with each school principal to discuss the issues to be presented to the students at each school. We then meet with the teachers. We have handbooks, posters, follow-up materials and we even arrange for follow-up contact resources for individual students.

We target each issue, tee-up the agenda, and then our teams of actors go to each school and entertain the heck out of the students. We did that in more than 1,800 schools last year alone.

The energy level of our teams of actors is a delight. Skilled, personable, talented, entertaining well trained and well prepared actors act out the stories of peer group rejection, anger control techniques, wise food choices, emerging sexuality, venereal disease prevention, and other extremely relevant topics in ways that help students better cope with and handle their own lives.

Over half a million students see those one-hour presentations every year. Every Region has its own teams of presenters. I’ve seen several of the teams. You would be proud to see them perform in the name of Kaiser Permanente. They are really good. And they love doing what they do.

The plays have names like Zip’s Great Day, Play HEALS, The Best Me, PEACE signs, Give Peas a Chance, Mumferds Safety Tales, Uncle Ghergins Magical Show, Swashbuckling Adventures of Jamie in the World of Red, The Reading Pirate, The “R” Files, IF, X-Change, Secrets, Fragments (Impressions of Grief), and Voices. Several of the plays have been used for years.

Secrets has actually been on stage continuously since 1989 in one Region or another. Secrets was developed initially in response to a rapid increase in HIV/AIDS/STD’s in the communities we serve. Secrets deals with resistance to peer pressure, the risks of being sexually active, and the actual consequences of behaviors. The actors make the medically solid point that abstinence is the only 100% effective way of preventing the transmission of HIV. Those are not easy topics to deal with. Secrets does it really well.

Audiences – both students and teachers – give the plays very high satisfaction ratings.

Schools in states we don’t even serve have also used “Secrets” to help educate their children. It is a powerful story, told in terms of well-acted scenes that students can relate to very directly.

Even though every Region has at least one acting team that presents these messages and even though we have been doing Educational Theater for a very long time, a lot of us inside Kaiser Permanente do not know that these programs exist – or that they do so much good.

So I thought I would celebrate the Kaiser Permanente Educational Theater Program this week.

I’ve had a couple of people from other health organizations ask me why we have such an extensive theater program. They want to know what is the basic “business” purpose of the program? They want to know why we invest millions of dollars in entertaining and educating grade school children and high school students – most of whom are not our members.

“Business” is not the point.

We don’t do Educational Theater because it increases sales. We also don’t do it to get a “Return On Investment.” I don’t know how we could ever calculate an ROI from helping school children deal with bullies or create inter-cultural friendships. It’s not about ROI. It’s about “RTTD”.

We do this program because Educational Theater gets a high “RTTD” score. “RTTD” means “Right Thing To Do.”

Helping a half million children each year deal more effectively with their lives is very much a RTTD.

So let me thank all of the wonderful and dedicated actors and writers and support staff and health educators and counselors and logistical folks who make our Educational Theatre program a success.

Well done. You make us proud.

Be well.

1 comment:

Ed said...

Thank you very much for posting this letter!

When I read it, I felt a huge rush of hope cascade over my heart.

Thank you for for your artistry.

Thank you for your caring.

Thank you for your blood, sweat and tears.

Thank you for your passion.

Thank you.

I know what it takes. I live on Kauai now, however I am also a 15 year veteran of Kaiser Permenente's Educational Theatre Programs in the Mid-Atlantic States.

Please give my love to Regina, John Edmiston and the whole Educational Theatre Program community of Northern Cailfornia (and any of the other ETP regions you may chat with).

Ed Eaton - ETP lifer