“It's a simple solution… you change one thing, and suddenly you've changed everything.”
Health Leads Founder, Rebecca Onie
So much of our health happens outside the walls of the hospital or doctor’s office. It is largely influenced by non-medical factors like the safety of our neighborhoods, the food we eat, and whether or not we have steady child care. Too often, people who don’t have enough money to buy food, a way to get to the pharmacy to fill their prescriptions, or safe, affordable housing suffer immediate health consequences.
Health Leads volunteers understand this connection—and are leading the way in changing how patient care is delivered in America.
Health Leads is pioneering an innovative model through which doctors help to remove those social barriers that prevent people from taking the actions they need to be healthy. In clinics and hospitals where Health Leads operates, doctors literally “prescribe” food, housing improvements, job training or other critical resources—just as they would medication. Health Leads’ college volunteers then help patients “fill” that prescription by connecting them to community resources they need to improve their health.
Armed with this rich experience and extensive training, eight out of 10 Health Leads volunteers go on to choose a career or further their studies in health or related fields, creating a pipeline of leaders armed with the understanding that access to basic social supports can have a huge impact on the health of patients and their families.
The past two years have been extraordinary ones for Health Leads.
In 2010 alone, Health Leads trained and mobilized 660 college volunteers, who helped nearly 6,000 low-income patients and their families connect to the resources they needed to get healthy—44 percent more patients than in the prior year.
At TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People Gala, First Lady Michelle Obama said of Health Leads: “This is exactly the kind of social innovation and entrepreneurship we should be encouraging all across this country.” The MacArthur Foundation honored Health Leads with its Genius Award; and O, The Oprah Magazine, featured the program in its “2010 Power List” for “changing the world for the better.”
Health Leads hopes that, one day, all doctors will be able to prescribe solutions that improve health, not just manage disease.
By addressing non-medical health issues facing vulnerable Americans, Health Leads' simple, economical and effective model provides health solutions where we live, learn, work and play.
Health Leads works in Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Providence, R.I., New York and Washington, D.C., and is supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.