HHS competition aims to spur positive changes in healthcare

June 10, 2022

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), announced the launch of the Building Bridges to Better Health: A Primary Healthcare Challenge, a national competition with a total of $1 million in cash prizes to encourage innovation through technical assistance to health centers.

Competition participants will accelerate the development of low-cost, scalable solutions to help HRSA-supported community health centers improve patient access to primary care and strengthen the link between healthcare and social services.

“It takes all of us working together to find innovative solutions that can help improve the conditions that affect people’s health and well-being,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “At HHS, we are committed to addressing health disparities and breaking down barriers to care. Earlier this spring we launched our whole-of-government strategy to address social determinants of health, and now we look forward to partnering with innovators across the country to implement the best and brightest ideas to make healthcare more equitable for all.”

“With this announcement, we are asking innovators to join us in the work to improve health outcomes in historically underserved communities,” said HRSA Administrator Carole Johnson. “We look forward to the creative and novel ideas the community will bring to the table as we work together to improve health equity and increase access to healthcare and social services.”

HRSA’s Health Center Program funds approximately 1,400 health centers in communities across the country to provide high quality, comprehensive primary and preventive healthcare for the nation’s underserved individuals and families, including people experiencing homelessness, agricultural workers, and residents of public housing. Nearly 62% of health center patients are racial and ethnic minorities. In 2020, HRSA-funded health centers provided care for 1 out of 11 people in the United States and its territories, 1 in 3 people living in poverty, 1 in 6 people who are uninsured, and 1 in 5 residents in rural areas.

This competition is a collaboration with a wide range of public partners, with aims to improve health outcomes by increasing linkages between community-based primary care and critical community supports like transportation, food, and housing. Social determinants of health (SDOH) refer to the environmental conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age—such as income, education, employment, housing, social support, and transportation—that impact healthcare. SDOH are recognized as having profound effects on health outcomes and contribute to health disparities and inequities.

Earlier this spring, HHS released an overview of the Federal Social Determinants of Health Strategy and Action Plan — a whole-of-government, multi-sector strategy to advance health equity and address the underlying systemic and environmental factors that affect health status.

The competition is open to broad public participation, including individuals, groups, healthcare organizations, and other entities. A total of $1 million in cash prizes will be awarded over three phases, which include concept design (Phase 1); prototype development and testing (Phase 2); and scaling of the approach (Phase 3). Phase 1 submissions are due August 2, 2022. Phase 1 will include initial awards totaling $300,000 for up to 30 winners.

HHS release