Global Search for Healthcare Ideas

Published May-09-11

Competition to discover breakthroughs in the future of health and healthcare.

Ashoka Changemakers, United States

The Story:

Global Search for Healthcare Ideas Open innovation has already created an explosive growth in innovative solutions and product ideas in a range of disciplines, encompassing such disparate fields as t-shirt designs and aeronautical engineering. It is a powerful business tool that takes full advantage of the Internet and digital networks and one that can easily be adapted to respond to health needs and transforming the future of medicine.

Using the principles of open innovation that are serving the business world so well Changemakers (a community of action where people collaborate on solutions to pressing problems) and the Robert Wood Johns Foundation (RWJF) launched an annual global open innovation competition for novel ideas to help people make better decisions about their health and the health of others.

Innovation Nudges

The “Designing for Better Health” competition looks for something it calls ‘nudges’ – small innovative ideas or pushes that can come from anywhere and lead to better choices being made.

The competition was inspired by the book ‘Nudge’ authored by behavioural economics gurus Cass R. Sunstein, J.D. and Richard Thaler, Ph.D., where nudges are the simple pushes that can induce someone to change his or her behaviour.

The competition was open to all types of organizations (i.e. charitable institutions, public bodies, private companies) and individuals and in 2009 drew more than 285 entries from 29 countries. Winners were selected by a collaborative review process between an expert panel of judges and the Changemakers online community.

Competition judges and Changemakers staff whittled down the submissions to the top ten finalists and the online community then had two weeks to vote for the best ideas that it deemed likely to create the greatest social and health impacts.

Changing the World with a Nudge

The top three winners who each picked up a $5,000 cash reward were:

Just a Piece of Cloth – GOONJ (India) – a sanitary napkin project that collects donated cloths and sanitary pads to be distributed to women. Not only does this open up a taboo subject in many parts of the developing world – menstruation - but it helps to reduce infections as many women typically have to share cloths or go without as they are unable to afford anything better.

Healthy Amazon – San Francisco Saudable (Peru) – a unique waste management program that nudges people to make changes to their traditional habits to improve their health by producing compost for family gardens. Previously people either burnt their garbage or threw it out into the streets. Healthy Amazon also encourages those already involved in agriculture to set aside a parcel of land to produce crops that children need to grow and stay healthy.

Child Promoters on Oral Health – Fundación Boca Sana (Venezuela) – this program allows children to promote better oral health by encouraging them to be teachers and promoters by passing on what they have been taught about oral hygiene.

To select the finalists submissions were judged according to their degree of innovation, potential sustainability, social impact and the degree to which they represented a nudge toward changing habits that would improve health.

“This competition brought to light exciting, inventive and often simple ways to promote healthy living," said Paul Tarini, from the RWJF. "These entries also remind us of the power of a great idea and passionate individuals working together to make change in the lives of so many.”

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