Rebecca Onie is the founder of Health Leads, a program that connects patients to basic care and resources, such as food and housing, that are the root cause of many health problems.

Why you should listen

In 1996, as a sophomore in college, Rebecca Onie had a realization: The health care system in the United States was not set up to diagnose nor treat the socioeconomic issues that lead to poor health, and that health care providers are not given tools to address basic problems like nutrition and housing.

So, while still a sophomore, she co-founded Health Leads, a program that assists low-income patients and their families to access food, heat, and other basic resources they need to be healthy. With the additional insight that college volunteers could be recruited and trained into an elite group just like a college sport team, she found the people and skills needed to produce such an audacious idea. Since then it has grown tremendously, and now operates in Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, New York, Providence, and Washington, DC, and in the last year assisted over 8,800 patients.

In 2009, Rebecca was awarded a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship.

Photo: Courtesy of the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Rebecca Onie’s TED talk

More news and ideas from Rebecca Onie


An elite team of volunteers to fix health care: Q&A with Rebecca Onie

June 12, 2012

At TEDMED 2012, Rebecca Onie stunned the audience with her blockbuster talk on a new vision for health care. She is the founder of Health Leads, an organization that brings an elite, competitive team of college volunteers into hospitals and clinics — a team that connects patients to services that help provide food, housing, insurance […]

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