In part one of this two-part blog series, AHA Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Jay Bhatt, D.O., discusses how AHA’s 2019 Innovation Challenge directs bold new thinking to urgent problems. Applications for the challenge are open through May 24. Read more and watch for part two tomorrow. 

Ideas that improve the world must first see the light of day. And few fields stand to benefit more from bold, innovative and disruptive new thinking than health care, a universal human concern.

That’s what drives AHA’s 2019 Innovation Challenge. Now in its second year, this nationwide competition recognizes and rewards member hospitals and health systems that offer new approaches to a specific health challenge that varies each year. 

The Innovation Challenge uncorks ingenuity that is directed at solving difficult public health issues and helping to protect vulnerable populations. This year, we’re asking entrants to nominate their best ideas for using technology to improve social determinants of health (SDOH), such as lack of adequate food and housing, lack of transportation to access medical care, and joblessness. Successful proposals also will map ways to connect people with the resources that meet community health needs. 

Why should you consider tossing your hat in the ring? SDOH play an enormous role in the health of individuals and entire populations. The Innovation Challenge offers our network of care providers a unique opportunity to make significant and lasting contributions to better health on a national scale. 

For more information on the urgency of addressing SDOH, read up here and here.

OK, we’re interested. Now what?

Here are a few simple steps to spark creativity, harness your organization’s best thinking and participate successfully in the Innovation Challenge.

  • Start off by assessing your surroundings. What do people in your community need most to live healthier? How can technology play a role?
  • Make sure you're trying to solve the right problem. Don't provide a fix for something that isn't a priority in the eyes of the community health field. Do this by asking the right questions and observing people, processes and outcomes.
  • Analyze the problem. Turn it upside down and inside out, extracting every variable and value that causes it. 

This is just a start. I’ll share tips for organizing your submission in more detail in an upcoming companion blog, and well as lay out the timelines and financial rewards for the top three winning ideas for using technology to address SDOH. Be on the lookout, and check out this video on getting creative and submitting a winning proposal. 

Jay Bhatt, D.O., is AHA’s senior vice president and chief medical officer.

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