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 and structural 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.

Read the HealthBegins Annual Report

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.

The Upstream Doctors book cover

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


Our Team

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Rishi Manchanda, MD, MPH


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Sadena Thevarajah, JD

Managing Director

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Grace Rubenstein

Editorial and Communications Director

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Vsem Yenovkian

Communications Manager

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Ellen Lawton, JD

Senior Fellow

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Taleen Yepremian, MHA

Learning and Improvement Program Manager

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Alejandra Cabrera, MPH

Senior Program Manager

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Erica Jones

Senior Manager, People and Culture

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Melissa Meza, MPH

Senior Program Manager

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Kyron Pierce

Health Equity Project Coordinator

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Kathryn Jantz, MSW, MPH

Senior Associate

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Eva Batalla-Mann, MPH, MSW

Program Manager

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Vince Pancucci, MPH

Health Equity Project Coordinator

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Tatiana A. Perez, MBA

Director, Business Operations

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Elisa Santiago

Business Operations Manager

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Barbara Long

Executive Assistant and Office Manager

Opportunities         Great Place to Work certification badge


Vice President for Medicaid Strategy & Initiatives

HealthBegins is looking for a mission-driven Vice President for Medicaid Strategy & Initiatives to join our team. Reporting directly to the CEO, this individual will have extensive experience guiding Medicaid transformation and working with and across Medicaid managed care plans, state Medicaid agencies, healthcare systems, and social sector nonprofits to help clients not only achieve contractual and regulatory requirements and accreditation standards but also to achieve long-term impact related to health equity and the social and structural drivers of health equity (SDOH-E). Please find position details and instructions to apply here.


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