GuideWell Taps Four Organizations Focused on Health Equity in West Florida to Receive Seed Funding, Advance to State Finals

GuideWell today selected four organizations to receive seed money to implement their innovative ideas to address barriers to health access and health literacy in West Florida. Starting Right, Now, Tampa Family Health Centers, Tampa Bay Healthcare Collaborative and Preeclampsia Foundation were selected from a group of 10 regional innovators across West 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 four innovative ideas from West Florida advancing to the finals include:

• Starting Right, Now – Imagine being a teenager but not having a caring adult, housing, food, transportation or health care. That’s the reality for many teenagers in the Tampa Bay region who leave on their own because they’re facing trauma at home. Because unaccompanied youth leave voluntarily and are not taken away by the child welfare system, these young children and teens are not eligible for foster care. Starting Right, Now helps these young people thrive by providing one-on-one mentoring, a stable home, assisting with employment opportunities, teaching financial literacy/life skills, promoting educational achievement and helping connect them with preventative medical care and mental health services.

• Tampa Family Health Centers, Inc – This organization, located in St. Petersburg, provides 48,000 dental visits a year through its fixed locations and outreach programs. 44% of their mobile outreach patients have emergent dental needs, including abscesses, pain and infection. However, dental hygienists cannot diagnose or treat these patients and many end up in the ER, without receiving post follow-up dental care. Dental Care Anyway is a teledentistry solution designed to deliver basic dental care and oral health education to those who cannot afford it. Using their current staff and mobile outreach buses and vans, they plan to use funding to purchase new technology to help underserved patients connect in real time with a dentist who can diagnose and prescribe medications and connecting them to a dental home.

• Tampa Bay Healthcare Collaborative –There are more than 10,000 nonprofits in Tampa Bay dedicated to improving health and health services and addressing Social Drivers of Health but the Tampa Bay Health Collaboratives believes many of these organizations could make an even greater impact if they worked together. Through their newly developed app and the power of collaboration, they aim to help groups and underserved individuals connect in ways that will help them improve efficiency and health equity.

• Preeclampsia Foundation – 1 in 12 pregnancies in affected by preeclampia, a life-threatening disorder. The most important diagnostic feature is high blood pressure. The preeclampsia Foundation is looking to expand its telemonitoring program into Sarasota, Clearwater and Tampa Bay to provide cuff kits equipped with home blood pressure monitors and education materials to high-risk, low resource women who are using telehealth for prenatal and obstetric care.

“We want to applaud all of the applicants for their passion and commitment to developing innovative strategies that address barriers to improving health access and literacy, critical public health issues that have long existed in communities throughout Florida,” said Kirstie McCool, executive director of GuideWell Innovation. “This challenge is designed to foster innovation and collaboration while providing resources to bridge the gap in health inequities that exist within our state.”

While health care inequities in underserved populations have existed for many year, 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 today’s event in West Florida, three other regional virtual pitch events took place throughout the state. The top finalists from each region are 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.

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Ilyssa Drumm

GuideWell Social Media and Media Relations Consultant