An open health challenge |

An open health challenge

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There is a treasure trove of high-value health information sitting on just waiting to be put to use. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Institute of Medicine (IOM) have been involved in a project designed to free health data from government archive silos and put it into the hands of innovators and entrepreneurs to facilitate growth and development of the healthcare ecosystem. The hope is that new applications, products, and services will be developed to advance healthcare education, to influence health behaviors, and to improve performance of the healthcare system and our health outcomes.

The available data includes a range of information such as national, state, regional, and county-level prevalence of disease, the quality of healthcare, and its cost, as well as evidence-based programs and policies that have improved performance across many of these measures.

At last week's second Health Data Initiative Forum, several new challenges were issued. So if you're interested in marrying health data and technology, its time to roll up your sleeves and get to work innovating.


Walgreen's wants to transform the role of the community pharmacy by developing a health guide position—a person who will act navigate and provide hands-on support obtaining meaningful and actionable data pertinent to a given consumer's health needs.

The challenge for application developers is to create an application and supported web service that would present aggregated HHS data to consumers and create health guide materials based on disease or health condition, topic, and/or location. The health guide and consumer would use this tool to provide information and resources about a specific topic of interest or health state. Additional disease-specific information from agreeable healthcare non-profit associations would be of added value.

And what does the challenge offer, by way of incentive?  Quite a bit, including:

  • First prize of $25,000, plus an opportunity to spend an hour with Walgreen's chief information officer, and two free passes to the Health 2.0 fall conference
  • Second prize of $5,000
  • Third prize of $3,000

Applications will be evaluated primarily on their usability and the intuitiveness of the application, usefulness of data, and the number of data sources utilized .

The submission deadline is August 15, 2011.


The Aetna Foundation, in partnership with Health 2.0, has issued a developer challenge to solicit new interactive browser-based applications designed to make important federal data about obesity and related data sets more useful for health services researchers, public health officials, policy makers, and other leaders in the fight against obesity.

Awards for this challenge include:

  • The top prize for the best application is $25,000 and two free passes to the Health 2.0 conference in San Francisco on September 26 – 27, 2011.
  • Second prize is $15,000
  • Third prize is $10,000

Submitted applications will be judged on their user-friendliness and interactive capabilities; the quality of health data integration; creativity and innovation; and potential for impact. Additional points will be given for including a health services researcher on the developer team and for incorporating non-health data sources and data sets that enable analysis at the individual, zip code, or county level.

The submission deadline is August 15, 2011.


Sanofi-aventis challenges innovators to help combat the diabetes epidemic by integrating open data with a human-centered view into the diabetes epidemic. Building on the spirit of a code-a-thon, Sanofi-aventis U.S. has created a challenge that casts the widest net for data-informed diabetes solutions, culls the best interventions, and incubates the strongest ideas. This challenge is structured to drive entrepreneurship and innovation. The entrants with the best and most human-centered ideas will be mentored by industry leaders, though all intellectual property and equity will remain the property of its creators.

The rewards for successful data designer include:

  • For five semi-finalists:
    • $20,000 towards development of the concept prototype.
    • Intensive mentorship from industry leaders to hone the concept.
  • For two finalists:
    • An additional $10,000 to create a one-month community-based proof-of-concept program.
  • For the one final winner:
    • $100,000 to develop their solution.
    • Workspace in the new Rock Health incubator in San Francisco, for up to one full month in 2012. Timing and fit will be at the discretion of Rock Health.

Submitted applications will be judged on their likelihood to bring relief, delight, satisfaction, and hopefulness to people living with diabetes.

The submission deadline is July 31, 2011.

These are just a few of the many opportunities out there, in the healthcare data space. Even more upcoming development and innovation initiatives were announced at the Health Data Initiative Forum, including:

  • EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced the Apps for the Environment Challenge, which encourages the development of innovative environmental applications for people and communities. This challenge invites innovators and entrepreneurs to create applications that help people make informed decisions about environmental issues that can affect their health.
  • The NCI announced an innovation contest for using public data to aid in cancer prevention and control. Some $40,000 in prizes will be awarded in the first phase, which involves integrating new technologies into applications that advance cancer prevention, detection, diagnosis, treatment, and survival.
  • The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT is sponsoring the Investing in Innovations (i2) Initiative, designed to spur innovation in health IT with prizes and challenges for research and development. As part of the rollout of this program, the office awarded nearly $5 million to the Capital Consulting Corporation and Health 2.0 LLC in order to fund projects supporting innovations in research.

If you are interested in collaborating on a project you can connect with people right here in the comments. Good luck!



About the author

Lori Mehen - Lori Mehen is an Account Manager in Brand Communications + Design at Red Hat. She grew up in Los Angeles, CA and now resides in Durham, NC with her husband and three kids. Lori enjoys water skiing, cooking and car racing.