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The Rural Health Projects team won $14,000 at the Rural Health Innovation Challenge, hosted by the OSU Center for Health Systems Innovation and the Public Health Institute of Oklahoma.

Teams compete for $43,000 in Rural Health Innovation Challenge

Tuesday, July 2, 2024

Media Contact: Terry Tush | Director, Marketing and Communications | 405-744-2703 |

Oklahoma State University's Center for Health Systems Innovation and the Public Health Institute of Oklahoma awarded $43,000 in prize money to the winners of the Rural Health Innovation Challenge on June 20 at the Tandy Medical Center at OSU Tulsa.

Teams participating in the challenge each brought an issue affecting their community’s pursuit of health to the competition and presented an innovative solution to a panel of judges. The teams were tasked with helping implement solutions the winners devised. Innovation Challengers competed for the best ideas to address issues in four critical categories: cardiovascular and community health, diabetes and obesity, mental health and substance use, and social drivers of health.

The grand prize was $10,000. The top four winners in each category won $4,000, $2,500, $1,000 and $250, respectively, and $500 was awarded for Best Data, Young Innovator, Health Equity Star and People’s Choice. Winners in each category:

Diabetes and Obesity Group

1. A Table in the Wilderness ($4,000). They created an engaging program that changes the way people eat, which in turn transforms their health. 
2. The Virtue Center (Health Equity Star)
3.  Logan County Partnership
4. Lawton Farmer’s Market
5. Collective Roots

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Group

1. Rural Health Projects ($14,000 – Grand Champion). They created a program to pilot for effectiveness to improve the health and wellbeing of caregivers who are critical to the access and quality of care of the people for whom they care.
2. National Center on Sexual Behaviors
3. Okie Outfitters (People’s Choice)
4. Resilient Payne County 
5. Oklahoma School Security Institute 
6. Rural Health Network of Oklahoma (Young Innovator)

Social Drivers of Health Group

1. Panhandle Cares Association ($4,000). They created a program to increase access for fundamentals of health often overlooked – access to hygiene products. 
2. OK Turning Point Council
3. Tulsa Period Pantry
4. Center for Children & Families
5. Community Action Agency

Cardiology and Community Group

1. Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma Perkins Family Clinic (Young Innovator) $4,000. Their after-school program will focus on increasing health literacy and promoting health equity. 
2. NW Oklahoma Osteopathic Foundation 
3. School of Chemical Engineering – OSU (Best Use of Data)
4. Rural Health Association of Oklahoma – Rural Research Poster Contest
5. Metriarch
6. Oklahoma Public Health Association – Policy Chasm

“One third of our state population lives rurally; the health of that population greatly affects the availability and cost of care in Oklahoma, which affects all of us,” said Dr. Marjorie Erdmann, director of OSU’s CHSI. “Programs like RHIC give people the opportunity to increase awareness of the work they’re doing, telling their story to people who may be able to help both with funds and support outside of this competition. The connections participants make during this competition are invaluable.

“The high level of community participation and success of this event has caught the attention of other states’ health leaders. Several states have reached out, asking for information and advice on how to recreate this type of event in their area. It’s great affirmation of how inspiring passionate people to create innovative solutions accelerates the transformation of rural communities.”

“We are meeting people where the need is greatest, and helping rural communities find increased permanent access to quality health care,” said Jill Hazeldine, executive director of Public Health Institute of Oklahoma. “These communities are doing important work, and we endorse that work through financial support and an open exchange of ideas.” 

The prize money given to winners came from sponsors including Aetna Better Health of Oklahoma, Humana Healthy Horizons in Oklahoma, Oklahoma State Department of Health, Choctaw Nation, OSU Medical Center, Oklahoma Complete Health and Grail. 

Members of the A Table in the Wilderness team
Members of the A Table in the Wilderness team celebrate after winning first place in the Diabetes and Obesity Group category.
Members of the Iowa Tribe team
The Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma Perkins Family Clinic won first place in the Cardiology and Community Group.
Members of the Panhandle Cares Association
The Panhandle Cares Association placed first in the Social Drivers of Health Group category.
Members of the Okie Outfitters
The Okie Outfitters won the People's Choice award and $500.
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