This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of This blog post is sponsored by the Aetna Foundation for IZEA. All opinions are 100% mine.
The disparity in health care affordability is nowhere more evident than in communities where access to care services is limited by cost and geography. Consequently, patients with low income receive poor quality of care that often comes at high costs. Some patients do not even get access to proper health care services.
According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease and diabetes are two of the top 10 leading causes of death among African Americans and Hispanics.
Fortunately, with the exponential growth of the universe of digital and mobile devices that dramatically transform how people manage their health outcomes – from wearable technologies that calculate and record our heart rate to gadgets that measure our calories and even count our footsteps – we can only take advantage of the tremendous opportunities to find innovative ways to help people with chronic medical conditions.
It is on this premise that Aetna Foundation has launched the Healthier World Innovation Challenge, which offers up to $4.5 million in grants for participants to develop innovative and readily available technologies that can help improve chronic health outcomes in underserved communities.
TechWalls is lucky to be able to conduct a one-on-one phone interview with Dr. Garth Graham, president of Aetna Foundation, who shared his experience that had inspired him to create the Challenge.
“As a cardiologist, I have been encouraged by witnessing my own patients utilize technology to improve their health outcomes. In Baltimore, I saw a young girl use her smartphone to research her grandmother’s condition, and with that information she downloaded an app to track their daily walks,” Dr. Graham said in an interview with TechWalls.
In fact, 1 out of 3 mobile users are using their mobile device to research health information, and 90 percent of patients are inclined to use technology in order to self-manage their healthcare by searching for medical information, refilling prescriptions and booking appointments through online portals.
“At the Aetna Foundation, we know that this type of technology can be harnessed to help entire communities better manage their health outcomes, and that’s why we’ve launched the Healthier World Innovation Challenge,” Dr. Graham added.
Aetna Foundation’s Healthier World Innovation Challenge aims to improve health outcomes in underserved communities by leveraging digital health technology.
“Through the Healthier World Innovation Challenge, our goal is to empower members of underserved communities (individuals with low incomes, minorities and those living in remote areas) to take control of their own health using technology already at their fingertips,” Dr. Graham told TechWalls.
“Digital and mobile technology allow us to reach people within their daily routines, where they live, work and play. If we can influence people to make the right choices, and do it real time when it counts, it will help them to improve their health outcomes and has the potential to drive down chronic conditions that disproportionately affect members of underserved communities,” Dr. Graham said.
Dr. Graham added these innovative technologies could come in the form of phone applications, fitness trackers or SMS messaging tools that residents in underserved communities may already be using.
“As a cardiologist, I’ve found that the best digital platform or tool is the one that an individual patient will actually use. For some people, that might be a mobile app, or something as a simple as an automated text message,” Dr. Graham told TechWalls.
Aetna Foundation considers it tremendously helpful to invite third-party organizations to pitch in innovative concepts of using these technologies to serve its cause.
The Healthier World Innovation Challenge is open to six 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organizations and state and local government agencies in the United States. Participants will receive up to $750,000 each over three consecutive years with the full support of Aetna Foundation and its partner organizations.
Challenge participants will collaborate with partners in underserved communities to promote measurable health outcomes.
“Throughout the three years, participants will implement their innovation in targeted communities and show potential impact on underserved populations with high chronic disease prevalence,” Dr. Graham said.
Grantees will work to implement their innovations in their target communities through pilot services. Should the innovations prove effective and live up to its objectives, the solutions will be scaled nationally.
To be eligible to the Challenge, applicants must have demonstrated how they have innovatively used their technology in real-world interventions; provide prospects as to how their innovations could impact the underserved populations with prevalent chronic disease; have an influence and credibility in their targeted communities; have already established partnership with community partners to drive scalable health outcomes; be able to monitor positive health change over three years through evidence-based approaches and propose an innovation that can be scaled for different community settings.
Organizations interested to join the Challenge must submit Letters of Inquiry on or before Feb. 16, 2015. Applicants will receive an invitation to submit their complete proposal on March 30 and the required proposals will be due for submission on May 8. Aetna Foundation will notify the Challenge awardees on June 22 and the grants will begin on July 15.
“Each of the grantees for the Healthier World Innovation Challenge will be expected to have an understanding of the community they are working in, in order to have a sense of what tool that population is most likely to use,” Dr. Graham said.