About Us

Our Beliefs

With a deep understanding of scientific research and years of frontline experience working in historically marginalized communities, we’ve always known that health begins where we live, work, eat, sleep, and play. But knowing that social determinants of health matter is not what sets HealthBegins apart. It’s knowing how to improve them — practically, boldly, and with an unwavering commitment to equity and justice.

Our Story

We understand that better health for all begins with equity. And it begins where we live, work, eat, sleep, and play. HealthBegins was founded in 2012 by Dr. Rishi Manchanda and other public-health-trained physicians who saw the need to strengthen the work of frontline clinicians and community partners who wanted to treat disease and improve the social and economic conditions that made people sick in the first place. In these early years, HealthBegins was a place where frontline practitioners in medicine, social services, public health, and community organizing could connect to learn about moving upstream, share ideas and best practices, and find resources to help promote upstream change in their practices and communities. That’s how HealthBegins was born: as a professional home and network for Upstreamists.

From 2012-2017, HealthBegins emerged as a national leader in the Upstream Movement, helping healthcare and community partners across the country through communications, network building, and hundreds of trainings on Upstream Quality Improvement — our signature braiding of social medicine and quality improvement approaches. As our team grew in 2017, so did our work and national impact. HealthBegins was selected to provide technical assistance to the CMS Accountable Health Communities model, a seminal effort to integrate social needs screening and referrals nationwide. At the same time, we expanded our work, helping many prominent national, regional, and state leaders in health care and the social sector move upstream together.

Our mission and work today remains clear — and is as timely as ever. We partner with and train courageous leaders to improve the social drivers of health and equity at all levels: individual social needs, community-level social determinants of health, and deeper structural determinants of health equity. That’s what we mean by “moving upstream.” We look forward to working with you.

Our Approach

At the root of our work is a clear understanding of what it means and what it takes to move upstream. 

Through our communications and training tools, we help leaders and frontline caregivers to understand that “moving upstream” means continuously improving the social drivers of health and equity at all levels:

  • Individual social needs, such as food insecurity, 
  • Community-level social determinants of health, such as food deserts, and 
  • Deeper structural determinants of health equity, such as redlining and structural racism.

We work with leaders across sectors to translate this understanding into action with clear strategies, learning collaboratives, and improvement campaigns, as well as place-based investment portfolios. 

  • In our strategic consulting work, we customize HealthBegins’ Upstream Approach — a set of practical strategic planning steps and tools — to each client’s goals and needs. We draw on years of experience developing social needs and social determinants of health strategies to provide keen insights, practical guidance, and support to help partners articulate and achieve bold goals. 
  • Our improvement campaigns and learning collaboratives are fueled by Upstream Quality Improvement — a blend of evidence-based performance improvement methods — as well as our team’s deep technical expertise in social medicine, public health, and implementation science.
  • With our business and partnership development expertise, we help clients calculate financial and social returns and make the case for clinical-community partnerships. Using innovative investment planning tools, we bring cross-sector partners together to develop place-based Upstream Investment Portfolios that align a range of investments in social needs and social determinants of health with long-term health and economic goals.


Learn more about our services

Health is not just a personal responsibility or phenomenon. Health is a common good. It comes from our personal investment in knowing that our lives matter.

Rishi Manchanda, MD, MPH

President & CEO,

Our Team

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Dr. Rishi Manchanda, MD, MPH

President & CEO

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Sara Bader, MCD, CPHQ

​Senior Manager, Upstream Quality Improvement

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Sadena Thevarajah, JD

Managing Director

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Keandra Wilson

Project Manager

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Grace Rubenstein

Communications Director

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Maricela Lopez

Executive Assistant​

Join our team!

Business Operations Manager

This position will oversee HealthBegins’ business operations and put procedures in place that will help ensure maximum efficiency and social impact. This will involve maintaining business operations, human resources, and managing budgeting and spending.

Download the full job description

Communications Associate

The Communications Associate will handle a broad range of responsibilities in order to support fellow team members and maximize HealthBegins’ reach and engagement with core audiences.

Download the full job description


HealthBegins strives to maintain a diverse and inclusive workforce through recruitment, retention and promotion policies. We strongly encourage people who have been directly impacted by the social needs and systemic barriers we address to seek employment with us.

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