Last month, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the Mobilizing and Empowering the Nation and Technology to Address Loneliness & social isolation (MENTAL) Health Innovation Challenge. The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) has joined the HHS, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and others in support of this important initiative.
The Challenge is a competition awarding $750,000 in prizes for development of an easy-to-use online system that offers recommendations for programs, activities, and resources that can help users connect to others and engage in the community, based on their individual needs, interests, and abilities. The winning system will be announced and demonstrated at the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2021.
Social disconnection has enormous health consequences. Social isolation has been found to be as harmful to a person’s health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and people who are socially isolated or lonely face higher risk of hospitalization; depression, anxiety and suicide; heart failure and stroke; dementia; and even premature death. Not surprisingly, a recent analysis found that Medicare spends an additional $6.7 billion every year on enrollees who are socially isolated.
“Staying connected to family, friends, and colleagues is important, especially during the pandemic,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “The FCC has a long history of helping ensure that those at risk for isolation, like older Americans and people with disabilities, can access the communications technologies that can keep them connected, healthy, and safe. We look forward to joining HHS and others in this important effort to enable technology to help vulnerable Americans.”
An informational webinar will be held on July 9, 2020 at 4:00 pm ET. Learn more on the competition page at Challenge.gov
Key Challenge Dates:
- July 15, 2020 by 11:59 pm ET – Register for the Challenge by emailing MENTALHealthChallenge@acl.hhs.gov with the subject: “MENTAL Health Challenge Registration” and identifies one official representative from the anticipated submission and confirms that they consent to the Challenge Rules.
- September 8, 2020 by 11:59 pm ET – Submissions for Phase 1 due
- December 4, 2020 by 11:59 pm ET – Finalists submit Phase 2 required information
- January 6-9, 2021 – The top two contenders will present their solution at CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas. A winner will be announced.
For additional information, please find the competition page at Challenge.gov. You may also email your questions to MENTALHealthChallenge@acl.hhs.gov.