So just what is it about the Peer Health Exchange? It’s as bootstraps as it gets—a volunteer-based organization that recruits college students to teach high schoolers about making healthy choices—and it’s been growing quickly—with help from various funders, including a number of local foundations and New Profit, the venture philanthropy outfit. The Peer Health Exchange now has six regional offices that has connected with 100,000 high school students.
The whole thing was the brain child of Yale undergraduate Louise Davis, who in 1999 co-founded a group called Community Health Educators, which placed trained volunteer health educators in a New Haven public high school. There was a significant shortfall at the time, between the school’s budget and the needs of its students especially when it came to health education. In 2003, Davis co-founded Peer Health Exchange with the goal of replicating the success of Community Health Educators in other communities with unmet health education needs. Today, PHE trains and deploys more than 1,500 health educators to over 100 high schools in Boston, Chicago, New York, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Los Angeles, reaching more than 15,000 students each year.
So, to review: PHE has assembled a strong record of success, a winning model combining public health and education, and an infrastructure that empowers young people to serve other young people. It also has something else: A local presence in cities with many active funders, and connecting up with those funders has been key to its growth.
In the Bay Area, PHE's funders have included the San Francisco Foundation, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, and the Lisa and Douglas Goldman Fund. In New York, it's gotten support from the Tisch Foundation and other local donors. In Boston, the Boston Foundation and the Klarman Foundation. Nice model, right?
New Profit gave PHE a million dollars because it's just the type of entrepreneurial organization you'd think New Profit would back as it expands its footprint on public health health issues.