Announcing the Winners of the Innovating for the Underserved Challenge

Today, we know that where an individual lives, their food choices and even their ability to communicate with providers and caregivers can play a significant role in their health outcomes. The health technology sector is growing at a remarkable rate but there is often a disconnect in getting these new technologies to the appropriate parties, like large health organizations. It is crucial to the continued advancement in health technology that partnerships are formed between key healthcare stakeholders and the startups looking to transform the system. These partnerships allow for the investment of time, money and effort needed for new innovations to be developed to their full potential. The Aetna Foundation believes that these issues can be addressed with innovations in health technology, and launched the Innovating for the Underserved Business Plan Challenge to help spur innovations for underserved communities and to further foster their growth and development.

This past summer, Aetna Foundation, the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the National Health IT Collaborative for the Underserved (NHIT Collaborative) came together in partnership to crowdsource and leverage IT innovations with potential to reduce disparities in health among underserved and minority communities.

The two-phase challenge sought creative business proposals of new or redesigned technologies that provide access to services and healthcare information to underserved communities. Teams were asked to submit solutions that addressed one of three concentrations:

  • Access to Services
  • Childhood Obesity
  • Connecting Data between Systems

During Phase 1 of the challenge, 108 individuals entered and 35 teams submitted a proposal for consideration. . Four teams were given the finalist award of $5,000 and advanced to the next phase. The teams detailed their business plans and pitched their concepts video to compete for $60,000 in prizes.

After careful consideration, Grupo Parada and FoodCare were selected as the winners, and Let’s Epicure as the runner-up. Their solutions address crucial challenges to underserved populations like cultural communication and language barriers in health; promotion of food literacy to mitigate child obesity and manage chronic diseases; and helping consumers and patients make smart and affordable decisions about their diets.

Grupo Parada:

Grupo Parada creates an effective cultural communication channel where the focus is not information about disease and death, but rather positive messages that help shape behaviors and modify attitudes toward food, lifestyle and exercise. Grupo Parada wants to turn prevention into the best possible medicine for the underserved Hispanic community. Patients build relationships with health providers in the same ways they do with other people: through ongoing interactions, establishing trust and mutual benefit and value. As digital channels continue to evolve, so do the audience’s options for engagement.



FoodCare is a leading provider of advanced clinical nutrition guidance solutions. FoodCare’s Nutrition Insights technology translates the nutrition data of any food item to the personal needs of an individual based on their anthropometric profile, weight management goals, food preferences and chronic diseases and disease stages. The FoodCare system was developed for over two years in close partnership with leading health associations and institutes. Clinical nutrition guidance is fully automated for a variety of chronic diseases including diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, liver diseases, bone diseases and many additional conditions.


Let’s Epicure:

Changing eating habits is hard. Existing products aren’t much help. They require you to count calories, log food journals, and buy specialty foods. Epicure makes it easy to change your eating habits. The technology automatically analyzes your online receipts and recommends healthier options. All you need to do is log in, and the system automatically handles the rest. The Epicure team is comprised of Cornell graduates from business, engineering and connective media fields who are inspired and driven to make a lasting impact in health and wellness.


The technologies and business plans that emerged from this competitive challenge showed innovation, understanding and sensitivity to each target population.



The NHIT Collaborative brings together private, public and community partners to bring health IT solutions to underserved communities in an effort to reduce disparities and give every individual the opportunity to attain optimal health.  For additional information on the 2014 roundtable that developed this challenge, please click here.

ABOUT Department of Health and Human Services

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is the U.S. government’s principal agency for protecting the health of all Americans and providing essential human services, especially for those who are least able to help themselves.  Their work reaches Americans in nearly all areas of health and wellness, in rural and urban areas, and across all stages of life.

HHS is responsible for almost a quarter of all federal outlays and administers more grant dollars than all other federal agencies combined.

About the Aetna Foundation

The Aetna Foundation, Inc. is the independent charitable and philanthropic arm of Aetna Inc. (NYSE: AET).  Since 1980, Aetna and the Aetna Foundation have contributed more than $445 million in grants and sponsorships. As a national health foundation, we promote wellness, health, and access to high-quality health care for everyone. This work is enhanced by the time and commitment of Aetna employees, who have volunteered 3.4 million hours since 2003. For more information, visit


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