Q & A with Robert Azevedo, MD, Physician-in-Chief, Kaiser Permanente Sacramento Medical Center

We had a chance to chat with Robert Azevedo, MD who is a Physician-In-Chief at Kaiser Permanente. See what he has to say about Walk-to-Thrive, farmers’ markets and more.

How does your sponsorship of the Capitol Mall Farmers’ Market support your mission?

At Kaiser Permanente, our mission is to help improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. Because we know that a good diet can significantly benefit one’s long-term health, we have supported efforts to bring more fresh fruits and vegetables into our community. The Capitol Farmers Market perfectly aligns with our mission and has done a fantastic job providing downtown with access to fresh produce. We are doing the same at our own facilities as well. Currently, more than 50 Kaiser Permanente facilities across the country host farmers markets and farm stands. Locally, we offer them at all three of our medical centers in Sacramento, South Sacramento and Roseville, as well as at our Point West and Lincoln Medical Offices.

Tell us about Walk to Thrive.

Kaiser Permanente launched a physician-led walking program in Roseville in 2012 that was hugely successful, so we jumped at the chance in 2013 to expand the program to downtown Sacramento where so many of our members work and live. It just made sense to offer people downtown the opportunity to get fresh produce, health information, and exercise all in one convenient location. The program has been a huge success as over 4,000 people so far have joined.

Each week, our physicians lead hundreds on weekly, one-mile walks that start at our booth at the farmers market at 11:45 a.m. Participants have a chance to talk one-on-one with specialists in fields such as dermatology, orthopedics, emergency medicine, and rheumatology, as well as primary care doctors in adult medicine, pediatrics, and women’s health. We have hundreds who participate every week, so are thrilled that so many are getting out from behind their desks and receiving the numerous health benefits of simply taking a walk.

Speaking of, just how does walking impact your health?

It is truly amazing how much a simple thing like walking can benefit your health. We know that it strengthens the heart, improves the health of blood vessels, and lowers both blood pressure and cholesterol. Walking actually can prevent or reverse Type 2 diabetes by controlling blood glucose levels, decreasing glucose intolerance, and enhancing insulin sensitivity. It not only strengthens bones and muscles, it also helps prevent osteoporosis which is the loss of bone mass and density. Walking reduces cancer risks and is known to improve cancer survival rates. And, you know, it’s important not to downplay the mental health benefits of walking. When you walk, your body releases chemicals that improve mood and reduce depression, anxiety, and stress. Best of all, walking is free and very accessible – just put on a pair of walking shoes and go.

When does Walk To Thrive start, and do you have plans to expand the program?

It starts with a kick-off Thrive event on Thursday, May 7, so be sure to get registered on our web site, kpwalktothrive.org. And we are expanding the program in an exciting way this season. We heard from many walkers that they are so enthusiastic about the program, they would like to lead their own walks as well as join our physicians. So we are starting an ambassador program where our members of Walk To Thrive can actually lead a walk earlier in the day on Thursdays during the farmers’ market season. It’s a great way for co-workers or friends to meet up and exercise together.

First you offered the Walk To Thrive program downtown, and now Kaiser Permanente will have a bigger presence downtown with your recent purchase of a new building. Can you tell us what you have planned?

We are very excited about this expansion. It’s the first time Kaiser Permanente will have a facility downtown in the 50 years since we have been providing high-quality care to the Sacramento region. In December, we purchased a six-story, 195,000-square-foot building at 501 J Street with a 505-space parking garage.

While we are currently evaluating what services will be located there and the projected opening date, we chose this site because it is centrally located and will be a convenient location to the thousands of Kaiser Permanente members who work and live downtown. In addition, we are excited to be a part of the historic transformation of downtown Sacramento, as our building is right across the street from the new sports and entertainment arena. As the team physicians to the Sacramento Kings, this will allow us to provide even more convenient, high quality care to the players, their families, and the Sacramento Kings employees.