Expanded A2 Health Hacks event tackles health challenges in the developing world

The A2 Health Hacks hackathon will return for its third year June 22-24 with new partners, a new and bigger space, a new prize, and a new focus on addressing health problems in the developing world.


The hackathon starts on the 22nd with keynote speakers who "tee up interesting problems," according to cofounder Diane Bouis. Teams of participants will also form on the 22nd, and then they'll brainstorm throughout the weekend and pitch their solutions to judges on the 24th.


Bouis says all of her co-founders are interested in health in the developing world. They conceived of the hackathon as a "bridge between the developing world and the developed world," and that was part of the reasoning behind this year's theme: "Making Do: Healthcare in Low Resource Settings."


Bouis says that sometimes the type of solutions created in the developing world and the developed world will be different, but sometimes they have a lot in common. For instance, she says, people think of infant mortality as a problem of developing nations, but right here in Michigan, Detroit has one of the worst infant mortality rates in the nation.


This year, A2 Health Hacks has partnered with the University of Michigan's (U-M) School of Public Health, Innovation, and Social Entrepreneurship as well as the Technology Increasing Knowledge: Technology Optimizing Choice (TIKTOC) program at the U-M Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center.


The collaboration with TIKTOC led to a grant from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research, which is sponsoring a special TIKTOC track on the topic of "Transition into Independence for Young People with Disabilities" and an additional cash prize.


Bouis says the track regarding transition into independence, like the hackathon's main challenge, isn't just focused on high-tech solutions.


"It could be a device that helps people with mobility challenges achieve things independently," Bouis says. "The solution could also be an app that helps with time management for somebody that has cognitive or developmental challenges. Or it could be a service or business model."


Attendance was capped at 120 in past years, and, through attrition, between 90 and 100 people were still standing during the final pitch on Sunday. This year, a larger space has been secured so that attendance will now be capped at 150.


The first place winner for the hackathon and the winner in the TIKTOC track will win a full scholarship to the Ann Arbor SPARK fall boot camp, where they'll learn to launch a company based on their prototypes, as well as cash prizes sponsored by Google. The TIKTOC track winner also gets $500 in startup consulting services provided through the grant. Additionally, Google sponsors a third prize of $500 to be used toward advancing a prototype for the third-place team.


Visit the event's website for more information or to register.


Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township. You may reach her at sarahrigg1@gmail.com.


Photos courtesy of A2 Health Hacks.

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