Health Leads Respond and Rebuild Initiatives Build Community-led, Equity-centered Paths to Health


Racial equity-focused non-profit expands COVID-19 relief projects and drives toward long-term systemic change

BOSTON and OAKLAND – Health equity-focused non-profit Health Leads today announced its commitment to new COVID-19 projects and partnerships as the foundation of its Respond and Rebuild strategy. Health Leads Respond and Rebuild initiatives fill critical essential health resource gaps worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic today, while also building and supporting collaborations between community and health organizations that enable equity-centered, crisis-resilient systems of health moving forward. 

The health and economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the deepest flaws, fractures and inequities of the health care, public health and social services systems in the U.S. People in crisis are expected to navigate severely fragmented systems to access essential resources, health care and public benefits. COVID-19 is impacting Black, Latinx, Native and other communities of color on the frontline of vulnerability at nearly three times the rate of white people – experiencing higher rates of infection, unemployment, food insecurity, social isolation and other secondary impacts than white communities. 

“Deep economic and health disparities existed long before COVID-19, but the world is only now waking up to them,” said Tene Franklin, VP of Health Equity and Stakeholder Engagement. “We’re seeing even the most under-resourced communities across the U.S. stepping up, working together with what they have to create innovative, practical solutions that work best for their residents. Imagine what these communities could do if they were well-funded, with access to the data they need to make decisions, and power to influence local policies and systems.”

For almost 25 years, Health Leads has partnered with health care systems and communities to improve the living conditions that drive health. Now, through a range of consulting services, Health Leads is helping communities meet urgent resource demands, while also redesigning and rebuilding the systems necessary for a more equitable and crisis-resilient future.

The Health Leads Respond and Rebuild strategy has garnered support from values-aligned philanthropic partners including Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Merck Foundation, Robin Hood Foundation, the Claneil Foundation, the Shaws Foundation and Star Market Foundation (part of the Albertsons Companies Foundation), Novartis US Foundation, The Boston Foundation, The Boston Resiliency Fund, the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health, and the Rx Foundation, among others. 

“Health Leads and its partners are creating smarter, more equitable, community-centric design processes and innovations in health equity,” said John Mandile, Health Leads board member and founding partner of Social Ventures,  a collaborative that supports entrepreneurs and investors who are working on disrupting a social sector at the systems level. “As an early investor in Health Leads, I am proud of our work over the past 20 years to champion health systems change around essential health resources at scale. In order to rebuild a better future, we must make critical investments in people, nurture great leadership, and facilitate strategy. Only then can we create the transformational change necessary to prepare our essential health systems to be resilient, agile and equitable in the face of future crises.”

New and expanded partnerships range from community-based services and government organizations to national systems change organizations, including: Peer Forward, San Diego 2-1-1, Roots Community Health Center, Bay Area Regional Health Inequities Initiative, Boston Public Schools, City of Boston Mayor’s Office of Food Access, Boston Food Access Council, Brooklyn Perinatal Network, and New York State Department of Health, among many others. 

Health Leads Respond and Rebuild projects are designed to:

  • Build lasting partnerships and change power structures between health care, community-based organizations and community members to enable community members to make decisions about the living conditions that impact their health. 
  • Expand, train and support community-based workforces who help provide food, housing, and other essential resources to families and communities that need it most.
  • Design and implement shared, crisis-resilient community resource governance and data networks to offer a complete, real-time picture of essential resource availability and access.
  • Fill knowledge gaps with promising practices from our innovations and others to spread adoption of racial health equity and influence long-standing policy changes.

“Against the deep pain of the pandemic, environmental disasters and political division, we are seeing a renewed commitment to action and investment in undoing the deep-rooted racism and privilege that underpin so many of the systems and policies that impact our health,” said Alexandra Quinn, Health Leads CEO. “Through Respond and Rebuild, we will continue to work with both local and national partners to restructure how communities, institutions and systems work together to eradicate racial health inequities and restore, build and enable health, well-being and dignity.” 

To learn more about Health Leads Respond and Rebuild efforts or become a Respond & Rebuild Impact Fund Investor, please contact Aziza Musa, Vice President of Development, at or visit