Health Leads is working to redesign the systems that connect people with essential resources like food and housing so that they advance racial health equity.
Millions of people across the country are forced to navigate frustrating, inequitable systems just to access essential resources like food, housing, and transportation. To bridge the gaps, health and social service systems are increasingly looking to implement systems and platforms developed to make it easier to connect people with available resources – otherwise known as “community referral networks.”
While some of these networks show promise, many are tackling only the surface-level symptoms of deeply-rooted systemic racial inequities. Others, at worst, are actually doing harm to individuals and entire communities.
Billions of dollars have been poured into improving these networks through better technology, but technology alone can’t fix the underlying issue: communities often don’t have a say in how these networks are designed, how their data is collected, how it’s used, or who profits from it. Meanwhile, stakeholders across technology, healthcare, and government are racing to optimize and scale referral networks, all too frequently ignoring the voices of the communities they’re intended to serve.
We’re working with communities across the country to re-design community referral networks so that they advance racial health equity at every level. That means making it easier for individuals to access resources, establishing community governance and ownership, ensuring technology isn’t doing harm, and unlocking the potential of the data captured by these networks to guide actions that can improve health outcomes. Together, we’re developing and spreading new processes, practices, and tools that are improving and iterating on these networks so that they’re owned by and accountable to the communities they serve.
To inform wider transformational efforts, Health Leads shares emerging learnings across our national platforms to reach other communities implementing referral networks. We also work to spread learnings and best practices with technology vendors, helping to build data collection platforms and referral technologies that avoid perpetuating structural racism and instead integrate equitable and community-centric approaches.
Read our response to a White House request for input on digital technology and health equity. We share what to avoid when individuals and institutions leverage digital technologies to improve community health, as well as ways to build consensus and align on what to promote.