In “Solving It”, the most recent episode of TED Radio Hour, an NPR program that revisits influential TED talks, Rebecca Onie and other leaders share their ideas on how to solve some of the most pressing systemic challenges in the United States.

Health Leads was born of conversations with doctors who, again and again, described the frustration of prescribing medication to patients who had no food at home or were living in unsafe housing. These physicians, who never had enough time for each patient, felt they couldn’t ask about these unmet social needs because they were not equipped to handle them. Rebecca explains in her 2012 TEDMED talk:

[Doctors] said, ‘Every day, we have patients that come into the clinic, the child has an ear infection and I prescribe antibiotics, but the real issue is that there is no food at home. The real issue is that that child is living in a two-bedroom apartment with 12 other people – and I don’t even ask about those issues because there is nothing I can do.’

Eighteen years later, Health Leads is serving these patients in 20 adult, pediatric, and prenatal outpatient clinics in health systems and community health centers across the United States. In these clinics, doctors can now ask these tough questions, and act on what they uncover. More importantly, in the two years since Rebecca’s TEDMED talk, the healthcare system has begun a shift toward treating these non-medical issues as integral to good health. Prominent hospital systems, health leaders, and policymakers are now asking how, not whether, they should be addressing patients’ unmet social needs – needs that drastically affect their abilities to be healthy. In the TED Radio Hour segment, Rebecca says:

The TED talk was the most extraordinary opening of floodgates that we could have possibly imagined. Over the past couple of years, we’ve had 850 expansion requests for Health Leads from health systems, health departments, hospitals, and doctors’ offices all across the country. What we hadn’t anticipated was how powerfully we were articulating a vision for healthcare that was already out there, but just hadn’t been made real yet.

Listen to the full episode on TED Radio Hour. Watch the full Health Leads TED talk below.

Also in the episode: Attorney Philip Howard offers ways to fix our broken legal system; legal scholar and activist Lawrence Lessig attributes a weakened democracy to the campaign funding process; and lawyer Bryan Stevenson shares some injustices present in the American criminal justice system.

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