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United Way of Metropolitan Dallas Awards $1M in Health Innovation Technology Prize Funding

October 19, 2021

United Way of Metropolitan Dallas awarded $1 million in prize funding to the winners of its Health Innovation Technology Challenge at a virtual event on Oct. 19. The five winners range from small tech startups to large, well-established health care networks. 

The challenge, presented by AT&T, encouraged both entrepreneurs and health systems to create transformative, technology-forward solutions to community health challenges in North Texas.

The funding can empower the activation of solutions throughout the Dallas region, United Way said.

Startup and institutional innovators vied for two sets of prizes. Winners of the Entrepreneurial Venture Award each received $200,000 and winners of the Institutional Venture Award each received $150,000 in prize funding.

Entrepreneurial winners will also receive consultative support from the BCBS C1 Innovation Lab, which often works with health care startups to broaden the impact of innovative new products and services

The winners

Per United Way, Health Innovation Technology Challenge winners are:

Entrepreneurial Venture Award

GreenLight VitalSign6
GreenLight’s mental health software, VitalSign6, is a suite of depression screening and clinical decision support software tools for minority and economically disadvantaged children.

Insight Optics
Insight Optics created a smart, mobile-enabled eye exam platform to better serve patients who live in rural, impoverished, and underserved areas. The solution lets primary care providers and their staff record video of a patient’s eye on their phone. The exam can be forwarded to a local specialist for diagnostic support and follow-up care.

OneSeventeen Media
The creator of reThinkIt! for School—a digital mental health platform that uses chatbot assistants, live chat counselors, and other tech—aims to help students in sixth to 12th grades better process difficult emotions, understand their own behaviors and navigate those of others while preserving teachers’ discipline management time and saving schools money.

Institutional Venture Awards

Children’s Health
Children’s Health will expand the reach of two existing mobile apps for asthma and diabetes. The health innovator also will develop and include two remaining modules for behavioral health and weight management. Its BeeHive platform will help youth facing mental health challenges by providing convenient access to interactive support solutions for moments of crisis, educational information and tools, and links to additional clinician-approved, no-cost, just-in-time support resources.

Parkland Health and Hospital System
Parkland’s gamified teen resiliency platform uses technology and social interaction to provide a new pathway to wellness for at-risk adolescents aged 14 to 17 in the Dallas community. The Stand for Parkland venture merges the clinical and behavioral health expertise of Parkland Health & Hospital System with the advanced data analytics and community navigation capabilities of the Parkland Center for Clinical Innovation and SuperBetter’s scientifically proven app (adapted specifically for teens for this challenge).


Finalists received $20,000 each in prize funding:

The UT Dallas Callier Center for Communication Disorders
The Callier Infant Hearing Project uses 3D printing tech to make custom ear molds at the point of service to improve early access to appropriate intervention for infants born with hearing differences. This advancement will help prevent developmental delays and positively impact educational outcomes for children everywhere—especially among families who have a difficult time accessing clinical care, the group says.

The platform, a secure patient-controlled health information exchange, automatically accesses, indexes, and organizes patient data from diverse portals into a sharable summary report. The goal? To enable seamless health-to-school data sharing and care coordination and provide timely access at school to quality mental, behavioral and preventive care for low-income students with chronic diseases.

River Health
The virtual-first health plan is a subscription service that provides comprehensive primary and behavioral care to individuals. Working with partners like CVS Health and UnitedHealthcare, River provides virtual care, in-person doctor’s visits, therapy, and prescriptions for just $35/month.

Texas Health Resources
THR is collaborating with local schools to develop the Feeding Us to Learn and Live (FULL) Minds & Bodies program, a health care initiative grounded in technology that is designed to combat food insecurity and promote the emotional wellbeing and long-term academic success of low-income students who are traditionally underserved.

UT Arlington’s Center for Addiction and Recovery Studies
Gateway is a unique, interactive virtual gaming app aimed at gateway drug prevention. The game is designed to educate youth while also building refusal skills to withstand peer pressure—all in a fun, enjoyable game that has increasing game-level activities in a medieval-style wizard school setting.

The “why” behind United Way’s health tech challenge

“The issue of health impacts everyone, from individuals and their families to entire businesses and communities,” said Jennifer Sampson, McDermott-Templeton President and CEO of United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, in a statement.

“To improve access and equity in health care, we must all work together to find solutions to our greatest challenges. The Health Innovation Technology Challenge is driving innovation and impact through collaboration, and we’re proud to have the opportunity to elevate our finalists’ forward-thinking, technology-driven innovations so they can benefit our entire region,” she added.

Specific challenges included increasing access to preventive care or improving social/emotional wellness and mental health. The funding is meant to help roll out the winning solutions which are aimed at their target audiences—”most of whom are North Texas students.”

Innovation through collaboration

That every major hospital system was involved in the challenge—either as a sponsor or participant—is a “true testament to the unity behind this concept,” United Way said.
The organization says the Challenge competition is just one element of its social innovation work. The nonprofit aims to “find creative new ideas to address our community’s systemic challenges in education, income, and health.”

Particularly in the area of health, United Way wants to improve access for North Texans who face challenges like no health insurance or lack of broadband internet.

Anne Chow, CEO of AT&T Business and two-time chair of United Way’s Annual Campaign, says sustained good health is key. It “enables individuals to thrive, which in turn, enables families as well as entire communities and businesses to succeed and grow,” she said in a statement.

“Now more than ever, we must leverage innovative, forward-thinking technology to improve access and equity in health care.”

AT&T was presenting sponsor of the event. Other sponsors included the Troy Aikman Fund at United Way Foundation of Metropolitan Dallas, Axxess, Kimberly-Clark, Baylor Scott & White Health, Children’s Health, The Harold Simmons Foundation, Vizient, Methodist Health System, Texas Health Resources, Texas Scottish Rite Hospital, BlueCross BlueShield, Medical City Healthcare, UT Southwestern Medical Center, Lyda Hill Philanthropies, and Health Wildcatters.

By: Quincy Preston for Dallas Innovates