When patients and their families seek medical care, they often face several critical challenges in their lives at the same time – they may have little food, no job, and they may struggle to keep up with bills for gas and electricity. Not surprisingly, these challenges affect their health.
Health Leads envisions a healthcare system that addresses all patients’ basic resource needs as a standard part of quality care. In the clinics where they operate, physicians and other providers can prescribe food, heat, and other basic resources their patients need to be healthy, alongside prescriptions for medication.
Patients then take those prescriptions to a Health Leads Desk in the clinic waiting room, where college student Advocates work side-by-side with the patients to access community resources and public benefits.
This year, Health Leads will train and deploy nearly 1,000 college student Advocates to connect over 14,500 low-income patients and their families to the resources they need to be healthy. Health Leads works in adult, pediatric, and prenatal clinics across the country.
Even in the shadows of the world’s most prestigious medical centers, health and healing are stymied by hunger, unsafe housing, and other poverty-related issues.
Health Leads bridges the gap between medicine and social work, equipping clinics with volunteers and family help desks.
Rebecca Onie founded Health Leads after seeing asthma was aggravated by unsafe housing, pneumonia by lack of heat, and what happened when a patient couldn’t afford both rent and medicine
Health Leads has served more than 23,000 patients, the majority obtaining at least one service within 90 days.
Doctors concern themselves with the social as well as medical needs of their patients, and health care systems address patients’ basic resource needs as a standard part of quality care.
Demonstration and Replication
Hospitals and clinics will invest in advocates and family health desks upon realizing cost savings from improved health outcomes and reduction in recurrent illness and readmissions.
As a college student working in a legal services office, Rebecca Onie saw up close how a child’s asthma was aggravated by unsafe housing, a case of pneumonia aggravated by lack of heat in the home, and other illnesses lingered because the patient couldn’t afford both rent and medicine. She founded Project Health (now Health Leads) with Dr. Barry Zuckerman, chair of pediatrics at Boston Medical Center. Health Leads bridges the gap between medicine and social work, equipping clinics with volunteers and family help desks, so that primary care doctors can prescribe not only medicines, but also services such as food, fuel, and housing assistance, and patients can get help to support their healing and long term health. By 2011, Health Leads had served more than 6,000 clients in major US cities including Boston and Baltimore, and trained more than 750 health care advocates – many of whom went on to study for careers in healthcare and social work, committed to furthering the Health Leads model.