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Grants available to fund health tech solutions for vulnerable communities

Jan 06 2015

In the United States today, a person’s zip code is a greater predictor of their life expectancy than race, age and other demographic factors. Could mobile technology help turn that statistic around for the neediest communities?

The Aetna Foundation believes it can. The Foundation has launched the Healthier World Innovation Challenge, designed to accelerate digital health innovation to improve health outcomes in vulnerable communities. The Challenge will award up to $4.5 million in grants. As many as six Challenge winners will each receive up to $750,000 over three consecutive years as well as the support of the Aetna Foundation and partner resources to implement their innovation.

Aetna Foundation President, Garth Graham, M.D., MPH, announced the challenge during the mHealth Summit on December 9 in Washington, D.C. The mHealth Summit is the largest gathering of mobile health experts from around the globe with over 3,000 convening to explore the limits of mobile and connected health.

“As a physician, I have seen firsthand the difference health technology can make among individuals and communities, so we could not think of a better time and place to launch the Healthier World Innovation Challenge than here, where so many individuals are gathered for the same purpose – to harness technology to change lives,” said Dr. Graham.

Dr. Graham moderated a panel at mHealth on “Reaching and Engaging the Disconnected,” with panelists Erik Brown of Molina Healthcare, Kathy Bellevin of Wildflower Health and Natalie Hodge, M.D. of Personal Medicine Plus.

While the panelists all shared mHealth pilot programs to bridge the health care divide, they each spoke of the importance of reaching people with technology they are already using daily. Whether it’s a smart phone app or a simple text message reminder, receiving a technology “prescription” from their doctor can make a difference in patients making healthy choices.

“People in underserved communities need technology that can run in the background of their lives,” noted Dr. Hodge.

“Take a close look at how your company or community can be more inclusive,” Bellevin advised mHealth attendees, “and create warm and inviting experiences within the health care system to reach those who need care the most.”