While autumn ushers in back-to-school and college football season for many Americans, the month of September, in particular, is also a great time to refocus and reflect on one’s overall health as it is officially recognized as Healthy Aging Month. Chair of Kaiser Permanente’s Community Health Committee and director of the University of California, Los Angeles’ (UCLA) Hispanic Neuropsychiatric Center of Excellence, Dr. Cynthia Telles, recently noted at one of the medical community meetings at Kaiser, “Healthy Aging Month is relevant to people of all ages as each stage of life brings with it new health needs and priorities. We’re all getting older and this timely observance creates an opportunity for us to reflect and make sure we are taking care of and understanding our physical and mental health needs at every age.”
Kaiser Permanente was founded on the goal of helping communities and people thrive. However, thriving isn’t just about getting care when a person is sick; it’s about preventing illnesses and disease progression while addressing needs to maintain total health – mind, body, and spirit – at all ages. According to Dr. Cynthia Telles, prevention, management, and access to high-quality health care are essential to aging well and living a healthy life. “Through my work at UCLA, as well as my board role at Kaiser Permanente, I see daily the impact that prevention, access, and management have on health outcomes and patient wellness, especially as we become older. I have been very encouraged by the strides Kaiser Permanente has made on these fronts and the impact our integrated care system is having.”
While specific preventative measures differ, the focus on prevention and convenience is also shown in Kaiser Permanente’s approach to controlling high blood pressure. According to the American Heart Association, one in three Americans (about 100 million people) have high blood pressure, or hypertension. Frighteningly, only half have managed to regularly achieve recommended pressure screenings. With many of its members grappling with high blood pressure, Kaiser Permanente developed the Hypertension Program Improvement Process — an evidence-based regimen that encourages healthy life choices and makes blood pressure checks by medical assistants easily available with no co-pay required. Dr. Telles recognizes the immense impact of this program on the lives of health plan members, “While the national average for hypertension control is 54%according to the CDC, Kaiser Permanente has achieved a 91%control rate for Medicare plan members and 83%for commercial plan members.”
Kaiser Permanente’s commitment to prevention, early detection, and the treatment of diseases extends far beyond hypertension as its health plans have been recognized as the highest performing across 29 measures, including cervical cancer screenings and behavioral health. As a result, the integrated care system was recognized as having the highest performing commercial health plans out of nearly 500 for the 10th year in a row. “We are honored to be recognized for the quality care and consistent performance we deliver,” says Dr. Cynthia Telles. “But the impact behind these honors is what drives us. For members living with diabetes and high blood pressure, we are helping ensure they celebrate more birthdays, have more good days, and get the support they need to live their healthiest lives.”
Cynthia Telles, PhD has dedicated her professional career to expanding access to high-quality health and mental health care, especially to underserved communities. She has served on Boards of Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc. since April 2003, where she is also chair of the Community Health Committee. Additionally, she has chaired the boards of the California Endowment, and the California Community Foundation. For over three decades, Dr. Telles has been the director of the UCLA Spanish-Speaking Psychosocial Clinic, which provides psychiatric and psychological services to low-income Latino patients and training to mental health professionals. Currently, she is also director of the UCLA Hispanic Neuropsychiatric Center of Excellence.