The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Aug. 24 announced it is challenging entrepreneurs to create a mobile device application with an eye toward reducing the disparate impact of cancer on women of color.

Calling the competition a “first-of-its-kind effort to address health disparities among racial and ethnic minorities,” the successful application will reach women who are disconnected from traditional information sources, particularly minority women and their caregivers.

The software would send health care information to smartphone and android users.

“It’s important for women to have information about what they can do to prevent or treat cancer,” said Dr. David R. Hunt, a medical director in the HHS Office of National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, in a statement.

And that’s especially true for women of color, added Dr. J. Nadine Gracia, acting deputy assistant secretary for minority health.

“By providing the right information at the right time, mobile apps can help minority and underserved women make informed decisions about their own health and benefit from the recommended preventive services provided at no cost under the health care law,” Gracia stated.

More than 300,000 new cases of breast, cervical, uterine, and ovarian cancer are diagnosed each year, according to the National Cancer Institute. But while the incidence of cancer is widespread across racial and ethnic lines, women of color suffer disproportionately on issues of prevention, early detection and quality of care, leading to more adverse outcomes, including death.

To combat those trends, the winning apps should be able to: Provide users with general, accessible information about preventive and screening services for breast and gynecologic cancers – in different languages and in culturally appropriate contexts; provide specific reminders, based on the patient’s health records, about appropriate screening and preventive services; and allow secure storage, viewing, and the exchange of complex patient care plans between the members of the patient’s care team among other criteria.

Minority lawmakers and other advocacy groups praised the Obama administration for the initiative.

“I am so pleased about today’s announcement from HHS, challenging technology leaders to leverage themselves to take a prominent role in efforts to reduce not only racial and ethnic, but also geographic disparities in cancer,” said Rep. Donna Christensen (D-V.I.), a medical doctor and member of the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust, in a statement. “…I have long-touted health IT as an integral part of health equity strategies and I applaud HHS today for utilizing this technology to reach the women of color who are most at-risk for a late-stage cancer diagnosis that otherwise may have been prevented. This is a great effort; one that brings research, advocacy and technology to the same table around a common cause.”

The first place winner of the challenge will receive $85,000. The second place prize will be $10,000 and third prize will be $5,000.

More information about the challenge can be found at http://challenge.gov/ONC/402-reducing-cancer-among-women-of-color.