RCCC’s Small Business Center part of health equity innovation challenge

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 8, 2023

The Flywheel Foundation has launched the Health Equity Innovation Challenge, which is sponsored by Atrium Health.

Additional organizations involved in providing research, subject matter expertise, community engagement and entrepreneurship support include Cabarrus College of Health Sciences, Cabarrus Health Alliance, North Carolina Research Campus, El Puente Hispano, Racial Equity Cabarrus, Cabarrus Economic Development Corporation, The Chamber, Leading Business in Cabarrus and the Small Business Center of Rowan-Cabarrus Community College.

The competition seeks solutions to problems causing disparities in healthcare outcomes. The challenge will run for three years and seeks 20-30 companies. The application website is open and will take applications through March 31 at www.healthequityinnovationchallenge.com.

The Flywheel Foundation is administering the challenge that seeks successful applicants to prove commercial viability and social impact of their solutions.

“The pandemic laid bare inequities caused by social drivers that lead to health disparities and barriers to health care access,” said Roy Hawkins Jr., president of Atrium Health’s North Market where the program is based, in a news release. “We will focus on innovative entrepreneurial solutions to address the leading indicators and drivers of inequities in health care as opposed to the lagging systemic indicators.”

“The Flywheel Foundation has administered accelerators and innovation challenges for the last eight years,” said Jill Atherton, the foundation’s executive director.

Applications are invited for social and technological innovations that can be applied and commercialized with demonstrated potential for the social and economic impact on the following priorities:

• Access: Improve access for colorectal screening, A1c control, blood pressure control, and behavioral health, with reduced readmissions.

• Quality and Outcomes: Eliminate disparities in mortality rates, mental health, and maternal and child health.

• Acute Social Needs: Support systems, community engagement, structural discrimination.

• Drivers of Health: Economic stability and upward mobility; food security and access to healthy foods; access to affordable housing and commercial districts; affordable transportation; affordable childcare, education access, and quality.

The targeted populations are vulnerable communities such as African American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American and those at 200% of federal poverty levels.

“Understanding these social drivers and indicators from the customer’s perspective within these communities is the key to unlocking innovative solutions”, said Matt Roden, Atrium Health’s director of community engagement.

The challenge requires engagement with those populations in north Mecklenburg, Cabarrus, Rowan, Stanly and Iredell counties for proof-of-concept testing. Local and regional applications will be given weighted scoring preference, but the challenge will be marketed state-wide and nationally.

Applications will then be scored by a screening committee with representatives from the collaborating institutions and finalists will pitch to be one of 5-10 founder teams accepted into the accelerator starting on June 5 at the Cabarrus Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Concord.

After the 12-week accelerator, companies will enjoy an 18-month residency at the Cabarrus Center with the support of Venture Mentoring Service (VMS), a program licensed by MIT.

Additional benefits include:

• Access to research, subject matter expertise, customer and investor introductions by the sponsor and collaborating organizations.

•A $5,000 Spark Grant in the form of non-dilutive funding.

• The opportunity to negotiate with the title sponsor for investment or another form of strategic partnership.

• Introduction to additional investors for follow-on funding through Flywheel’s New Ventures program.

“Founders can expect to experience an amazing program that equips them with the skills, resources, and relationships necessary to build highly impactful businesses. Being a serial entrepreneur and having attended and worked at different accelerators and incubators, I can attest that this Health Equity Innovation Challenge is unparalleled,” said David Hunt, a ccelerator director.