HIMSS announces global tech challenge to improve maternal health outcomes worldwide

The challenge, which officially launches in January 2021, was announced this week during HIMSS’ Health Equity Week.
By Mallory Hackett
11:56 am
A doctor talks to a pregnant woman

The HIMSS Global Health Equity Network and Accelerate Health are working together to host the Global Maternal Health Tech Challenge, a worldwide call to action to create technology solutions focused on improving maternal health outcomes.

The challenge, which officially launches in January 2021, was announced this week during HIMSS’ Health Equity Week.

“This is HIMSS taking the opportunity to really address the maternal health crisis that we see across the globe and leverage HIMSS as a thought leader, as a convener, as an expert in the development and the implementation of technologies, and really taking all of those together and utilizing them in an impactful way to address a health disparities crisis that we see as important and really hopefully make an impact,” said Kerry Amato, the executive director of health innovation at HIMSS.

Even though the World Health Organization says that most maternal deaths are preventable, about 295,000 women died during and following pregnancy and childbirth in 2017. It has identified maternal health as one of its top global priorities and is working to make the average global ratio of fewer than 70 deaths per 100,000 births by 2030.

During the early part of 2021, the challenge will kick off by stakeholders from the Global Health Equity Network, Accelerate Health and the HIMSS international team hosting a series of virtual roundtable discussions to explore region-specific maternal health issues that could potentially be addressed using technology.

As of now, the challenge has identified Europe, Africa, Latin America, North America and Asia as the focus regions, however, the specific locations are still being refined, according to Leslie Evans, the director of professional development at HIMSS.

“In each of the prior tech challenges, we’ve used a design-thinking approach to spend time listening to the impact on communities to better understand and identify challenges and issues,” Evans said, “and then convene a group of stakeholders to help us solidify the parameters of the challenge.”

The overall pregnancy-related mortality rate in the U.S. is 17.2 deaths per 100,000 live births, according to the American Journal of Managed Care. However, that number is significantly higher for Black women (43.5 deaths per 100,000 live births) compared to white women (12.7 deaths per 100,000 live births).

Addressing these inequalities will be a goal of the challenge, according to Evans.

“We can’t host it without acknowledging the disparities, especially in the African American population,” she said.

Once the specific issues that the challenge hopes to address in each location are identified, HIMSS will host the actual tech challenge where developers, designers, entrepreneurs and other innovators can digitally submit their solutions.

From there, a panel of judges will select winners from each region to receive an all-expense-paid trip to HIMSS 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada, where they will participate in the Accelerate Health Global Pitch Competition.

Although the grand prize has yet to be announced, Amato is hoping that the winners will receive funding and pilot opportunities to grow their solution.

“We are a neutral, global player to bring this forward and do it in a manner in which there’s no personal interest here other than just improving health,” Amato said. “And that’s really what we want to do, so it’s exciting we can finally do it on a big scale like this.”



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