A South Florida organization dedicated to empowering student health ambassadors has taken top honors in a statewide innovation challenge to address health access and equality. Health Information Project (HIP) was awarded a $40,000 grand prize in the GuideWell Reshaping Health Access Challenge, a statewide competition focused on addressing health disparities in Florida.
HIP was launched in Coral Gables in 2009 as the first peer-to-peer comprehensive health education program for high school students in the country. HIP trains high school juniors and seniors to teach health education to their freshmen peers using an evidence-based health curriculum, backed by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania. Once trained, peer educators deliver health education through interactive discussion sessions, a school-wide print and social media health campaign and an individualized website for each district. Topics include depression, abuse, bullying, anxiety, suicide prevention, eating disorders, grief, stress and obesity.
“Students and teachers need more support than ever before as they cope and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said HIP Founder and Executive Director Risa Berrin. “Families are experiencing profound trauma ranging from food, housing, and job insecurity to loved ones who are sick or have died from the virus to an overall increase in mental health issues due to quarantine and lack of access to services.
” HIP currently works with all 55 Miami-Dade County public high schools as well as some private schools. With the award funding from GuideWell, HIP hopes to expand the program into new school districts throughout Florida.
HIP was one of 62 organizations that submitted an idea in the Reshaping Health Access challenge---a competition created by GuideWell Mutual Holding Corporation (GuideWell), the parent to a family of forward-thinking companies focused on transforming health care.
“As a health solutions company, we believe everyone deserves to have an equal opportunity to achieve their full health potential,” said GuideWell President and CEO Pat Geraghty. “By using innovation to break down barriers to health access, education and literacy, we’re confident we can partner to help create scalable solutions that can close gaps in health disparities and strengthen the health of our communities.”
This summer GuideWell opened the statewide challenge to social innovators, local non-profits and organizations in Florida that had the ability to sustainably deploy innovative approaches focused on addressing health access and health literacy to underserved populations in their communities. Following four regional pitch events throughout the state, GuideWell selected the top finalists from each region. The 14 finalists, including HIP, were each awarded $5,000 and an opportunity to compete for the $40,000 state prize to further expand their approach to improving health access and health literacy.
On Wednesday, Oct. 28, the 14 finalists convened virtually for an opportunity to pitch their innovative solutions at the statewide finals. The following day, HIP, was announced as the challenge winner during a virtual town hall, an all-day event that brought together health equity experts from throughout the state and country to engage in dialogue about how to break down barriers to health equity in communities in Florida.
“We congratulate HIP and extend a thank you to all of the innovative minds that came together to identify sustainable solutions that address critical barriers to achieving health equity in the most vulnerable Florida communities,” added Geraghty. “GuideWell is committed to supporting organizations and programming across the state and country focused on improving health access.”
As part of GuideWell’s long-term commitment to tackling health and racial equity and systematic racism, the company recently announced $25 million in investments over five years to organizations focused on diversity and inclusion and health equity in the communities the organizations serve. The Reshaping Health Access challenge is part of that investment.
Additional information on the challenge is available here.