The competition — part of an 18-month innovation challenge led by the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia in partnership with Accelerate Health Equity and powered by Independence Blue Cross — seeks proposals from Philadelphians to overcome community-identified barriers to health equity
Today, the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia launched the 2023 Well City Challenge: “Community Solutions for Mind and Heart Health” by issuing an official Call for Ideas to community leaders and innovators. Individuals are encouraged to submit their proposals for community-driven solutions that address barriers to equitable access to mental and heart health support and services for all Philadelphians.
The 2023 Well City Challenge is presented by the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia and Accelerate Health Equity (AHE), and powered by Independence Blue Cross. The 18-month social impact challenge invites the community to identify existing barriers to equitable care and to develop innovative ideas to overcome them. This year’s Challenge is focused on mental and heart health — two areas where Black and Brown communities across Philadelphia face significant disparities and reduced access to quality care, as reflected in the AHE dashboard. The Well City Challenge supports the development of proposals through an incubator, an accelerator, and pilot opportunities, with over $100,000 in prizes, as well as access to seed investments.
Understanding that communities themselves speak best to the true barriers to health equity, the Well City Challenge relies heavily on the lived experience of everyday Philadelphians — as well as their proposed solutions.
“The Well City Challenge is intentionally designed to center the community voice — not only in asking the communities directly about their personal experiences in health care, but also in seeking their ideas in addressing and reversing health disparities,” said Well City Program Director, Maritza Pedlar. “Too often, well-meaning efforts don’t go deep enough into the reasons behind barriers to access and, as a result, offer surface-level solutions that fail. We believe that the best solutions come from within the communities affected.”
The previous Well City Challenge in 2021 awarded $50,000 to grand prize winner, Hey Auntie!, a multi-generational wellness tech platform for Black women. The platform facilitates purposeful connections through conversations, fitness, learning new skills, and volunteerism. This year’s Well City Challenge will accept proposals that address:
- Supporting Community & Social Connection with respect to mental and heart health: With today’s technology, there are new opportunities to build community in nontraditional ways, breaking down the invisible walls that act as barriers to true connection. Supporting ventures that build stronger community and social connections gives us a chance to empower neighbors, tap into grassroots leadership, and increase access to resources to improve mental and heart health.
- Breaking Barriers: Equitable Access to Nutrition & Care: Too often, health disparities come down to one thing: access. There is no shortage of hospitals and health resources in the region, but the reality is that the quality of care is often dictated by a patient’s race or ethnicity. Likewise, many under-resourced neighborhoods lack access to healthy, culturally appropriate foods. We must build pathways to care, especially preventative care, and nutrition that embraces and reflects the community’s identity, instead of working against it.
- Creating Safe Spaces: Safety in our Streets, Homes, & Communities: Our environment has a direct impact on our health, and unsafe environments lead to unhealthy outcomes. Here in Philadelphia, our neighborhoods are facing an epidemic of gun violence. There is an undeniable link between violence and health — whether poor mental health leads to violence, victims of violence face poor mental health outcomes, or neighbors are fearful of their surroundings. Unsafe streets are preventing many neighbors from walking, gathering, attending community hubs, and other activities that contribute to health and wellness. Safe spaces are critical to both mental and heart health.
These categories were derived from a robust community engagement process. Listening sessions held in Fall 2022 in neighborhoods throughout the city — including Southwest Philadelphia, North Philadelphia, West Philadelphia, and Kensington — helped the Economy League, Accelerate Health Equity, and other partners identify some of the most common and significant barriers to equity in mental and heart health.
According to Accelerate Health Equity, barriers include lack of adequate health insurance, not having a primary care physician, and living in areas where there aren’t enough behavioral health professionals. These factors lead to barriers such as difficulty paying for prescriptions without insurance, inability to find a nearby physician, as well as increased travel time and cost to attend visits. As a result, Black and Brown Philadelphians are less likely to initiate care, less likely to fill prescriptions, and more likely to end treatment in comparison to white adults. Combined with higher rates of medical comorbidities including hypertension, diabetes, and obesity, Black adults also may experience increased stress related to socioeconomic status, reduced access to specialty care, limited access to healthy foods, and fewer opportunities to exercise safely in their neighborhoods.
“Accelerate Health Equity emphasizes understanding health disparities through data to better understand the landscape of inequities in Philly. However, a major issue in health disparities research is in who designs and implements interventions — without input and co-creation from community members, many interventions fall flat,” said Erica Dixon, Director of Accelerate Health Equity. “The heart of the Well City Challenge is that an understanding of problems and barriers as well as ideas and solutions both come directly from community voices, and the challenge fosters and supports the ability to create real opportunities for change.”
“We are excited to once again support the Well City Challenge in pursuit of scalable and sustainable solutions to health care inequities that have real relevance to communities, because they are developed by the people who live there. When our region’s creative minds get the resources they need, it creates opportunities for new and unique partnerships. We’re looking forward to seeing that next big idea take root and grow,” said Gregory E. Deavens, president and CEO of Independence Blue Cross.
The application for the Well City Challenge will remain open until March 3, 2023. Here’s what the rest of the program looks like:
- CALL FOR IDEAS (Jan 21 – March 3, 2023)
Applications from everyday innovators with bold and fresh ideas for improving Philadelphia’s mental and heart health.
- SOCIAL VENTURE INCUBATOR (April – May 2023)
Selected teams will participate in workshops with experts to help them sharpen their ideas and create a business plan.
- PITCH COMPETITION (May 2023)
Teams will present their ideas to a panel of judges composed of healthcare experts and community leaders. Selected teams will be awarded prizes of up to $10,000.
- ACCELERATOR (June – July 2023)
The top teams will be assigned mentors and coaches as well as significant investment, up to $50,000, to help them further refine their idea and prepare it for the pilot phase.
- PILOT (July 2023 – March 2024)
Grand Prize winners will be connected with organizations and resources to test their ideas and prepare them for rapid growth.
For more information, visit economyleague.org/wellcity and follow @economyleague on Twitter and Instagram; and @economyleaguephl on Facebook.
About the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia
The Economy League of Greater Philadelphia (ELGP) is our region’s independent ‘think-and-do tank,’ founded in 1909 by forward-thinking business leaders united by the belief that business has a civic responsibility beyond profit-making, and that it is the citizen’s business to ensure that local government and the local economy work for all. The Economy League is focused on creating inclusive and equitable growth and prosperity in Greater Philadelphia by cultivating informed and collaborative leadership across sectors, using data and research to inform decision-making, fostering a culture of civic experimentation and innovation, and opening doors to civic participation. Visit economyleague.org to learn more.