GuideWell has selected four South Florida organizations to receive seed money to implement their innovative ideas to address barriers to health access and health literacy. Student ACES, Epilepsy Florida, T. LeRoy Jefferson Medical Society, and the Health Information Project, Inc. (HIP) were selected from a group of 10 regional innovators across South Florida to receive $5,000 in funding. In addition, they will advance to GuideWell’s Reshaping Health Access challenge finals where they’ll have the opportunity to compete for a $40,000 state grand prize. Funds will be used to address health and racial inequities that exist in their respective local communities. The groups were selected after a virtual pitch competition that was held on Friday, September 18.
The four innovative ideas from South Florida organizations advancing to the finals include:
• The Student ACES Center (Palm Beach Gardens) – In the Glades region, 12.8% of the population has been diagnosed with diabetes, 58% are considered at-risk for developing diabetes, nearly 37% have been diagnosed with hypertension and 35% are reportedly obese. This program aims to improve health literacy by providing health education so high school athletes are more equipped with the tools and knowledge needed to live a healthy lifestyle. ACES also provides tutoring at its student ACES center to support students through their online distance learning programs.
• Epilepsy Florida, Inc. (Miami) – An estimated 426,000 Floridians live with epilepsy but those with little or no income face barriers to care. I.M.P.A.C.T. (Improving Medical Pediatric and Adult Access to Care through Telemedicine) provides virtual psychological services and health literacy workshops to help those who otherwise would not have access to the medical support they need. Epilepsy Florida plans to use funding from the challenge to expand its telehealth services, including virtual neurologic consults, psychological counseling and evaluations.
• T. LeRoy Jefferson Medical Society (Palm Beach) – Named after the first African-American physician in Palm Beach County, T. Leroy Jefferson Medical Society (TLJMS) is a professional organization that focuses on improving health and wellness, access to quality care and academic and career opportunities for underserved populations. They plan to create short videos featuring Black doctors who will share COVID-19 health information. They also plan to build a database to help voluntarily enroll COVID-19 survivors in the National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project.
• Health Information Project, Inc. (HIP) (Altamonte Springs) – Through peer-led classroom sessions, a health resource website, and a school-wide health campaign, HIP trains high school student health ambassadors to teach health education to their peers—at their own schools—in an effort to support, inform, and empower youth. HIP hopes to expand its peer-to-peer health education program to additional school districts across Florida.
While health care inequities in underserved populations have existed for many years, COVID-19 has shined a spotlight on the correlation between socioeconomic conditions of a community and the health of people living there.
In June, GuideWell issued the statewide challenge to entrepreneurs, nonprofits, innovators and organizations to accelerate innovative thinking and build greater health equity in Florida communities.
Aside from the event in South Florida, three other regional virtual pitch events are taking place throughout the state. The top finalists from each region will be invited to present their approaches and compete for the grand prize of $40,000 at the Reshaping Health Access challenge statewide showcase on Wednesday, Oct. 28. Like the regional pitch competitions, this year’s statewide event will also be held virtually. All statewide finalists will also receive a unique opportunity to attend the GuideWell Reshaping Health Access virtual town hall event on Thursday, Oct. 29, an invitation-only, collaborative gathering, bringing together experts and stakeholders from across the state and nation to focus on improving health access and literacy in Florida communities.