(Updated 5/18/2013) The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently announced the winners of the Reducing Cancer Among Women of Color Challenge, a first-of-its-kind effort to address health disparities among racial and ethnic minorities with the development of mobile device applications to help women of color prevent and fight cancer.

The winning apps were Everhealthier Women, by Big Yellow Star; Preventing Cancer, by Broadstone Technologies; Cancerguard, by Appbrahma; Cancer Awareness, by HW-Technology, and Support Health, by Netzealous.

The winning apps are designed to provide preventive and screening services and locations, including support groups and care services in different to languages to women and community health workers. They also were developed to interface securely with patient health records and foster better communication across a patient’s care team in an effort to better coordinate information and care.

“This challenge created an innovative opportunity to use new technologies and new platforms to engage women in communities that have too often been dismissed as ‘hard-to-reach,’” HHS Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health J. Nadine Gracia said in a statement. “Through these innovative tools, we are addressing disparities by reaching women where they are – and taking an exciting step forward in implementing the HHS Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities.”

The impact of breast and gynecologic cancers on the United States is significant. According to the American Cancer Society, breast, cervical, uterine, and ovarian cancer account for 300,000 new diagnoses and 68,000 deaths each year. Those cancers strike minority and underserved women with a disproportionate lethality for several reasons, including the inability to access health care and preventive information, services, referral, and treatment.

The challenge, the result of a partnership between HHS’ Office of Minority Health and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC), attempted to address that disproportionality.

“The Reducing Cancer Among Women of Color Challenge is a great example of the positive impact health information technology can make,” said Dr. David Hunt, ONC’s medical director of health IT adoption and patient safety. “Getting timely cancer preventive and treatment information to patients has always been an effective strategy. The winners of this challenge increase our capacity to empower women across a broad socioeconomic spectrum.”

The Reducing Cancer Among Women of Color Challenge accepted submissions between Aug. 23 and Feb. 5. The contest offered $100,000 in prizes, including $85,000 plus conference exhibition opportunity for the first-place winner; $10,000 for second place and $5,000 for the third.

For more information, visit: http://challenge.gov/ONC/402-reducing-cancer-among-women-of-color


Zenitha Prince

Special to the AFRO