Student Ventures for Better Health Awarded $40,000

From an app that addresses biases among physicians, to another that uses stories instead of traditional health messages to teach sexual health topics to middle schoolers, five student teams have received a total of $40,000 in grants to create technological solutions to health challenges that disproportionately impact low-income communities.

InnovateHealth Yale (IHY), a program at the Yale School of Public Health, launched its Seed Stage Award Program early this year to encourage students to devise innovative approaches to pressing challenges.

There were two award categories: $15,000 was awarded for solutions that address a health challenge impacting low-income communities in the United States or low-resource countries, with support from Equilateral Ventures; and a total of $25,000 was awarded for ventures focusing on technology solutions that address a health disparity challenge in the United States, with support from the Aetna Foundation. Students applied for the grants in December and judges considered the stage of the venture, its potential impact and how it will be measured and sustained, including scalability, in picking the winning teams.

“The students have some amazing ideas with strong potential to make a real difference in the lives and well-being of people domestically and globally. I wish we could have funded many more,” said Martin Klein, IHY’s founder and director and associate dean for development and external affairs at the Yale School of Public Health.

There were 23 applications for IHY grants and 13 for the Aetna Foundation grants. The winning teams will compete for IHY’s Thorne Prize for Social Innovation in Health or Education, which awards $25,000 to the best student-led venture. A new $25,000 award, the Aetna Foundation Prize for Health Equity Innovation, will also be awarded this year. Both competitions are held in the spring and final pitches will happen at Startup Yale 2017.

The grants were open to all Yale students. The teams were permitted to include non-Yale students as long as the team leader was enrolled at Yale. One of the Aetna Foundation grants was open to any Connecticut college student—the first time a Yale entrepreneurial prize has been specifically targeted for students from another university in the state. Organizers hope that it will broaden the pool of innovative solutions and strengthen relationships between Yale and other colleges.

InnovateHealth Yale and the Aetna Foundation are both focused on developing novel solutions to promote health and address major health issues.

The students have some amazing ideas with strong potential to make a real difference in the lives and well-being of people domestically and globally. I wish we could have funded many more.

Martin Klein

“We are very excited about this partnership because we see not only the potential to draw innovation from the field in new ways, but also an opportunity to develop a cadre of young leaders who are committed to using their abilities to change how we approach health inequities and create healthier communities,” said Alyse Sabina, national program director of the Aetna Foundation.

Created three years ago, IHY promotes student innovations by providing financial support for projects that demonstrate particular promise. It also fosters entrepreneurship through regular lectures, hackathons, courses and internships.

The Aetna Foundation Prize for Health Equity Innovation Seed Stage Grants were:

  • Real Talk, winner of the Yale $10,000 Aetna Foundation Seed Stage Grant, for an initiative that uses stories rather than traditional health messaging to help middle school students learn about sexual health topics.
  • Mindscope, which won the Connecticut college $10,000 Aetna Foundation Seed Stage Grant, for an app for patients, and a computer program for doctors, that serves as an alternative communications tool for the “invisible” symptoms, such as changes in mood, behavior, energy and pain, which are characteristic of mental illnesses and brain diseases. The team’s leaders came from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut.
  • Better Care, recipient of the $5,000 Director’s Choice Award, for an app that addresses implicit biases among physicians that also helps improve standards of care for patients with such vulnerabilities as food insecurity and housing instability.

This year’s winners of the InnovateHealth Yale Seed Stage Grant were:

  • RxAll, winner of the $10,000 IHY Seed Stage Grant, for an online marketplace platform for pharmacies in Africa so they can buy genuine healthcare products from licensed pharmaceutical manufacturers, distributors and wholesalers.
  • BE ART, recipient of the $5,000 Director’s Choice Award, for an after-school program for young women that encourages open dialogue, skill building and social and emotional wellness.

“BE ART provides a ladies-only safe space I was fortunate enough to have in my high school and I believe that it is something all young women could benefit from, as a space to discuss and work together to solve the challenges we face as we begin to understand ourselves at this crucial age,” said Nya Holder, a School of Public Health M.P.H. student and member of the BE ART team. Grant funding will be used to buy supplies, expand the team and determine next steps based on the pilot outcomes.

IHY is awarding a total of $80,000 in funding this year to support student entrepreneurship, including these Seed Stage Awards.

This article was submitted by Denise L Meyer on January 31, 2017.