Our Story - Isabella Health Foundation

Our Story

About Us

Isabella Health Foundation, Inc. is a nonprofit organization. We are based in Coastal Virginia, in the United States, but we take a global focus.

Our mission is to promote and advance health equity and social justice and to eliminate health disparities for all.

We believe it is an undeniable right for all persons to attain the highest level of health regardless of social factors such as wealth, race or gender.

We believe health equity is social justice…without equity in social conditions everyone cannot achieve the highest attainable standard of health.

We seek to address all social determinants of health.

With this in mind, Isabella Health Foundation, Inc., has several programs. You can learn more about them on our programs page.

  • Global Education
  • Global Nutrition
  • Global Health Delivery
  • Global Maternal and Child Health
  • Community Outreach and Awareness. 

Through these programs we promote and advance health equity and social justice to eliminate health disparities for all.

How We Do It 

Our approach is:

Multidisciplinary: Our team’s experience collectively covers health sciences, mental health, research, education, program evaluation and management, informatics and community advocacy.

Community led: We begin our projects with community needs assessments and involve local people throughout — we believe global change starts with changing our communities. 

Data driven: We identify gaps and focus on making measurable improvements through evidence based solutions, serving the most disadvantaged first.

Built on partnerships: We forge relationships with communities and local governments, and contribute to research. 

Where our Story Began

The Isabella Health Foundation draws deeply on the personal and professional experiences of Katharine Hawkes, its founder.

As an Afro-Korean woman who, like so many others, has experienced abuse and racism and who has watched family members battling with numerous health conditions both mental and physical, Katharine has always felt deeply the structural inequities preventing people from achieving their optimal health. 

Katharine’s academic background is in health sciences. But as an avid reader with great admiration for the works of Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Ralph Ellison, Jane Austen and  many more, she was inspired to teach English Language Arts while pursuing her graduate studies at Eastern Virginia Medical School.

As such, one of the first health equity programs Katharine created was focused on the issue of literacy. However, this inspiration coupled with her wider background in health means today, the foundation tackles a much broader range of issues than just this.

Rather than analyzing great literary works, when teaching English Language Arts, Katharine found herself uncovering more and more the inequities surrounding literacy among both English as a Secondary Language learners and native English learners. Her students have included those struggling to meet grade level proficiency, various learning disabilities, and students from a range of schooling backgrounds with many at risk and disadvantaged.

Katharine understood the undeniable correlation between low literacy and adverse health outcomes, and was compelled to teach literacy intervention courses. This decision galvanized a pilot program, launched in 2017, that improved the literacy skills of children in over 13 countries.  

This pilot program would later become one of Isabella Health Foundation’s Global Education Program initiatives, the IHF Literacy Project. 

But Katharine knew the nonprofit she created would need to address all the social determinants of health to be effective. So the Isabella Health Foundation takes a cross-cutting approach.

How to Get Involved


Help us make a more equitable future for all. There is no justification in social exclusion, poverty, illiteracy, and the many issues resulting in health inequities.


Change begins in the community. Strengthening communities begins with understanding cultural diversity and embracing cultural differences. Join us and get involved.


The IHF Literacy Project was one of our initial programs. Aiming to close the literacy gap particularly at the most vulnerable times during a child’s development.

Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and inhuman. –Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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