Rebecca D. Onie

Health Leads
Year founded: 

Access to basic resources is rudimentary to preventative health care. Health Leads tackles the link between poverty and poor health by connecting patients to resources such as food, employment, childcare, and education.

Focus: Health
Geographic Area of Impact: USA
Model: Hybrid Not-for-Profit
Number of Direct Beneficiaries: 9,000 (2012)
Annual Budget: US$ 7.3 million (2012)
Percent Earned Revenue: 20%
Recognition: Social Entrepreneur of the Year 2013

From 2000 to 2010, 12.3 million Americans entered poverty, reaching a historic high of 46.2 million people below the poverty line. Millions of those individuals are eligible for basic resources such as food assistance, utilities assistance, and childcare vouchers, but many are not enrolled in programs to receive these resources due to lack of information and challenges to navigating complex social service agencies.

Innovation and Activities
Health Leads envisions a health care system that addresses all patients' basic resource needs as a standard part of quality care. Health Leads mission is to catalyze the health care system by connecting patients with the basic resources they need to be healthy, and in doing so, build leaders with the conviction and ability to champion quality care for all patients. Health Leads approach is straightforward, yet innovative in its cost-effectiveness and scalability – by enabling healthcare providers to "prescribe" food, utilities, or other critical resources, just as they would medication. Patients take these prescriptions to the clinic waiting room where Health Leads’ Advocates work side by side with the patients to assist them in connecting with the prescribed resources. To keep organizational costs low, Health Leads has tapped into an innovative labor supply: college students, who work as patient advocates. In utilizing college students, the model echoes the lay health worker model used by leaders in the global health community in providing a solution to clinics’ infrastructure deficit.

The core components of Health Leads’ model also include: