What if physicians could "prescribe" food, housing, child care, job training, transportation assistance and other resources for their patients as routinely as they do medication?
Thanks to an organization called Health Leads, this is exactly what's happening at 22 sites nationwide—with encouraging results.
Health Leads relies on volunteer college students to "fill" prescriptions by connecting patients with vital resources. A student may help one patient fill out a food stamp application, and work with another to address a mold problem in the patient's apartment.
In addition to helping to change outcomes for individuals, Health Leads is creating a new generation of health leaders—talented and motivated undergraduate volunteers, many of whom go on to become physicians, social workers, policy-makers and health care administrators. These Health Leads alumni have a deep understanding of the impact of social influences on health; what's more, they have a deep commitment to weaving together medical and social solutions to improve the health of the most vulnerable among us.
In 2010, Health Leads trained and deployed 660 college volunteers to connect nearly 6,000 low-income patients and their families to the resources they need to be healthy.