Digital Health
The Network Journal|SPRING 2017

Revolutionizing delivery quality for African-Americans.

Rosalind McLymont

Last November, the African American Wellness Project organized a conference to explore technology-based solutions to health problems plaguing communities of color, notably heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and asthma. Titled “Tech Health Conference Communities of Color” and held, appropriately, at Impact Hub Oakland, a co-working and events space in Oakland, California, for those involved in driving positive social and environmental change, the conference included a pitch competition for digital health startups. Of the six competing startups, Project Vision, an analytics platform that helps care providers offer personalized preventive care services to patients with obesity or diabetes-related conditions, claimed the first prize. Patients selected for Project Vision monitoring receive daily tailored wellness guidance in fitness, diet and stress reduction via a smartphone app. Information on these patients’ response to the daily guidance is gathered via the app and shared with clinicians, who then coordinate clinical and nonclinical services to support changes in behavior for improved health.

“We founded the company because we felt that there were some serious problems with how patients, and particularly low-income patients like Medicare/Medicaid patients, received care in managing their conditions,” Shingai Samudzi, the company’s Zimbabwe-born founder and CEO, said in a December interview with Downtown Podcast. “If you look at all these new digital health technologies that have come out — Fitbit, the Apple Health Kit — all are great technologies but fundamentally they’re inaccessible to a large portion of our population in our country.”

At the time of his interview, Samudzi, a graduate of Carnegie Mellon in Design Science, was in Las Vegas as a participant in The Mill Startup Accelerator. His Project Vision is just one of hundreds of digital health innovations, many of them created by Blacks, positioned to address the health challenges of the country’s aging population, increasing chronic illness, emphasis on self-care, accelerating health costs, regulatory reform, and new value-based payment models that reward outcomes (including lower total cost of care) rather than utilization.

Established in 2002 as a nonprofit to address disparities in access to and delivery of quality health care that exist in communities of color, the African American Wellness Project supports these innovations. In addition to its pitch competition, it is launching a crossmedia digital presence “to be the premier media communications organization in the health space for African Americans.”

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