This blog post is sponsored by the Aetna Foundation. All opinions are 100% mine.

The Aetna Foundation is looking for a few great minds to help change the world. At least in the realm of changing the way individuals, especially in underserved communities, look at and approach health issues. The Aetna Foundation’s Healthier World Innovation Challenge is aiming to find a few brilliant minds that can develop new ways to improve chronic health outcomes in underserved communities using technology that is already available. As part of this challenge, up to six organizations will receive up to $750,000 each over a three year span to implement technology to make a difference.

We were able to sit down and chat with Dr. Graham, President of the Aetna Foundation, to discuss more about what the foundation is hoping to do with this challenge.

Roy Choi

What is Aetna Foundation looking for when we talk about technology that can change lives?

Dr. Graham

I find that the most impactful technologies and applications are those that are everyday spaced, or built on either medical health or public health type of evidence that motivates people.

It is important when thinking of technology and innovation to think of the people that need it the most. Within that sphere there is a huge need in poor and underserved minority communities, and other kinds of communities. Some of these communities are growing particularly in urban areas across the country.

Roy Choi

What type of technologies/applications is the foundation looking for in this challenge?

Dr. Graham

We’d like to find the right application that is the right fit for the community. There are a lot of communities where technology has not penetrated a lot of these communities. There is a challenge in finding the right technologies that are appropriate for the community that help them make the right decisions.

Roy Choi

What problems do developers face with adopting technologies in the Healthier World Innovation Challenge?

Dr. Graham

We don’t have a challenge as a country with coming up with fancy or good technologies, we have the challenge of coming up with is the technologies that are the most impactful, and change the lives of people.

If you look at the country and in terms of health outcomes the underserved communities have the worst health outcomes (e.g., heart disease, diabetes). So as developers that are developing health care related tools, the question is “How do you create the tool that will change the outcome and impact the community”

What we’re trying to do with this challenge is not to come out with the next fancy tool, but the tool that changes a particular outcome within a poor or underserved community. It may be a different type of tool, if it’s a diagnostic tool can lead to patient activation, then it is useful. If it is a tracking tool and is actually used and shows improvement and engagement to move from point A to point B.

Roy Choi

What advice do you have for developers that are interested in entering this challenge?

Dr. Graham

Well there are two points of advice when servicing the underserved communities. One is developing technology that is culturally and linguistically appropriate. Second, develop a technology that is useable for their pattern of life, lifestyle or their day to day living.

If you create something that is too pie-in-the-sky and it is not applicable to someone’s life especially if that life is filled with other challenges (e.g, transportation) that makes that tool less useful. We need to understand the culture and the challenges that people are facing within these communities. That’s what we’re trying to stimulate with this challenge.There is a NEED in the community.

These communities need everyone to come together, with the brightest minds to help improve their outcomes. The question is “How do we create these technologies that will improve their health outcome?”.

It is important to think of technology and innovation to think of the people that need it the most. Within that sphere there is a huge need in poor and underserved minority communities, and other kinds of communities. Some of these communities are growing particularly in urban areas across the country.

So do you think you have what it takes to make an impact? This is important stuff here people, life and death situations. According to the CDC, heart disease and diabetes are two of the top 10 leading causes of death among African Americans and Hispanics. But there are solutions that can help change habits and improve health outcomes. That’s where the Healthier World Innovation Campaign steps in, people are already using their mobile phones to improve their health. 1 out of 3 mobile phone users research health information and 90% of patients want to self-manage their healthcare (e.g., medical information, refilling prescriptions, appointments) by using technology. Learn more about the Healthier World Innovation Challenge here

So, if you’re interested in making a difference head over to Aetna Foundation’s website to get the full details on how you can help create the next technological tools for a better health outcome. To join the Healthier World Innovation Challenge, click here. If you’re interested, make sure to download the information and submit your letter of inquiry no later than Feb. 16, 2015 by 5 p.m. EST.

Here’s the complete list of deadlines:

  • Feb. 16, 2015, 5 p.m. EST – Deadline for receipt of Letters of Inquiry
  • March 30, 2015 – Notification of invitation to submit a full proposal
  • May 8, 2015, 5 p.m. EST – Deadline for receipt of full proposals
  • June 22, 2015 – Notification of awards
  • July 15, 2015 – Grants begin

And make sure to use the #DigitalHealthGrants hashtags to promote your entry! Good luck!


This post is sponsored by the Aetna Foundation.

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