Kaiser Permanente has named its first chief executive to build and maintain relationships with community organizations as a way to impact population health.
Dr. Bechara Choucair started working as Kaiser Permanente's first chief community health officer last week, the company announced Monday.
"While we directly care for nearly 11 million Kaiser Permanente members, our commitment is to improve the health of the 60 million people within the areas we serve," said Kaiser CEO Bernard Tyson, adding that Choucair will help deliver on that promise.
In 2014, Kaiser spent $2.2 billion, or 3.9% of operating revenue, on community benefit programs. Kaiser runs both a 10.6 million-member health plan and an integrated healthcare delivery system that includes hospitals and most recently, a medical school.
The system's incentives for keeping its population healthy are partly financial. The healthier its enrolled population, the lower the medical costs for its insurance arm.
Some of the system's efforts stay close to traditional healthcare, such as supporting community health centers. Many of its programs are focused on children.
Choucair, 43, most recently served as senior vice president of community health at Michigan-based, Trinity Health, the Catholic health system with operations in 22 states. He previously was Chicago's public health department commissioner. In that post, he launched an initiative that sought to reduce the city's smoking rate initiatives and lower childhood obesity rates. But he also faced controversy for defending the city's decision to close community mental health clinics.
"I am honored to join Kaiser Permanente, which is known as a national leader in connecting its community health work to its quality and prevention agenda," Choucair said. "Improving the health of communities is something I care deeply about, and I am excited to build on Kaiser Permanente's visionary work."
In addition to overseeing the system's community health efforts, Choucair will serve as senior vice president of the philanthropic arm of the giant health system and health plan.
Choucair was born in Lebanon and emigrated to the U.S. in 1997. He started his career as a family physician.
Correction, Dec. 7, 2016:
Kaiser has 10.6 million members in its health plans. An earlier version of this story had an incorrect number.