Rebecca Onie: Connecting Health and Poverty

Rebecca Onie: Connecting Health and Poverty

Founder of Health Leads on why non-medical needs, like housing and heating, are essential to improved health care.

How do we address the intersection of health and poverty on a global scale?

“It’s so critical to find that particular place where your passion intersects with the things that you’re really good at,” says Rebecca Onie, the 2011 recipient of the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship. As a college sophomore at Harvard in 1996, she found her own inner-intersection—in the housing unit at Greater Boston Legal Services, which was working to recognize the link between poverty and poor health. It was there that the lightbulb went off—and Project Health was born. Now called Health Leads, the organization places student volunteers in urban clinics to help patients find housing, food, heating, and legal aid. Last year the program dispatched more than 1,000 college students to assist more than 9,000 low-income patients and their families.


TakePart travelled to the Skoll World Forum in Oxford, England, to pick the brains of the worlds biggest thinkers. These Innovators in Action are changing the face of the future with bold new ideas and profound enthusiasm. Motivated by personal experience and fueled by the hope that things can get better, these innovators—each of them true social entrepreneurs—are improving our world, one brilliant business idea at a time.

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