Family trips to the Grand Canyon and other national parks throughout the country as a child would prove to be an influential force on Birmingham resident Teresa Kline, who was recently named as a board member this year to the Grand Canyon Association.
As the official charitable partner of the park, the association provides private funding to enable Grand Canyon National Park educational and preservation programs that aren't funded by federal dollars.
"Most parks have a public-private partnership where private entities help them raise funds that the National Parks Service can't squeeze into the budget," said Kline, who moved to Birmingham in late 2016 when she accepted a position as the head of Health Alliance Plan (HAP). "We work with fundraising in multiple ways."
Fundraising includes retail sales within the park and multiple campaigns, which have helped to fund trail restoration, educational programs and other improvements, such as the Dark Skies initiative, which serves to purchase light fixtures that point down as to allow for better viewing of stars at night.
"It's a fun thing for me," Kline said. "It's very different than what I do in my day job, but it's also part of the health and wellness of getting people out and moving. We had over 6 million visitors last year."
Spending much of her childhood near Kalamazoo, Kline left the state to begin a career in the health care field after finishing her graduate degree in epidemiology at the University of Michigan. Prior to her position at HAP, Kline's work included owning her own consulting firm in Atlanta, and serving as a senior vice president of Health Care Service Corporation, the fourth largest insurer in the country.
The recent return to Michigan is the second homecoming for Kline, who first left Michigan at about nine-years-old when her father started a company to develop luncheon meats. It was during that move that Kline got her first glimpse of the Grand Canyon.
"It was pretty awesome. To look across the edge and into the canyon, it was pretty amazing," she said. "We stopped when moving to California, and stopped on the way out, and when we moved back to Michigan a few years later."
By high school, she had returned to Michigan, but had taken up an interest in hiking, even taking on part of the Appalachian National Trail with her youth group. Her continued activity in hiking may also play into part of her objectives in her professional life, as encouraging participation in outdoor activity amongst the population in southeast Michigan can help to lower health care costs to both the insurer and person insured.
"Health patterns and cost patterns are different from state to state. When looking at care in Michigan, there is a higher use of emergency rooms than any place I've every worked, and the cost is higher because of that usage," she said. "That's reflective of a population being not quite as healthy, when compared to somewhere like California with higher health status, they have a lower cost."
For Kline, raising heath status among customers in her home state is a win for the population and her company. That includes finding ways to promote health and fitness.
"I’m definitely still a hiker. I also play tennis and walk on the treadmill every day," she said. "You can always find places to walk everywhere. I've gotten to know Birmingham, and it's a very walkable city."
Photo: Laurie Tennent