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Urban Health Accelerator


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Consider the fact that while 100 public and private Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) make up only three percent of today’s higher education institutions, they produce 24 percent of African-American science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) graduates.

HBCUs have created a hub for scholastic achievement in STEM-related fields providing a unique opportunity to bridge academic excellence and the needs of surrounding communities.

The American Heart Association-(AHA) is working to orchestrate transformative change in communities.

The AHA is uniquely positioned through the EmPOWERED To Serve Urban Health Accelerator – HBCU to collaborate with colleges and universities who share a similar vision for impacting and creating opportunities while facilitating the growth of future leaders. Participation in the EmPOWERED To Serve Urban Health Accelerator – HBCU and their civic-minded student populations will expand the work of the AHA by driving transformative change on their campuses and in surrounding communities. The American Heart Association’s Mid-Atlantic Affiliate has formed a collaboration with the Community Campus Partnership for Health’s CEO, Al Richmond, to implement this project.

The EmPOWERED To Serve Urban Health Accelerator – HBCU was developed as a multifaceted strategy requiring the use of business models designed to address critical needs and social issues – in and around campuses – impacting the ability of individuals to attain optimal health. Schools submitting projects for the Urban Health Accelerator – HBCU must:
  • Be an HBCU located within the following: Maryland, DC, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Augusta, Georgia.
  • Develop strategies focused on policy, system and environmental (PSE) changes through a health-equity lens.
  • Secure the approval of the college/university president or chancellor and have an administrative lead submit the application.
After the proposal submission has been accepted, selected HBCUs can expect to:
  • Invite talented, socially conscious students through application or faculty recommendation to participate as a member of the participating team.
  • Collaborate with community members to activate projects designed to solve health equities and promote social justice.
  • Receive the tools, resources, and mentors to help teams design a sustainable and scalable project.
  • Attend the EmPOWERED To Serve Leadership Summit on February 28TH in Charlotte, NC.
  • Participate in an intensive, multi-week training designed to strengthen projects and prepare teams for Accelerator presentations.

The EmPOWERED To Serve Urban Health Accelerator – HBCU is made possible by the Barbara Houston Historically Black Colleges and Universities Legacy Award along with the support of Mr. John Houston III. Five (5) will be selected as finalists and invited to present their concepts at the EmPOWERED To Serve Urban Health Accelerator – HBCU Showcase. Up to two schools will be awarded $50,000 per year for two years to implement their plan.

Learn More About the EmPOWERED To Serve Urban Health Accelerator

What is the EmPOWERED To Serve Urban Health Accelerator – HBCU Healthy Communities Challenge?

This is an eight-week intensive training designed to challenge you to apply innovative, community-based solutions to help solve an urgent health problem on your campus and in the surrounding community. If accepted, you will have access to a team of marketing, branding and tech leaders who are ready to join forces with you. Through their mentoring, training and coaching, you will move closer to qualifying to present your project at the EmPOWERED To Serve Urban Health Accelerator – HBCU Showcase April 2019 [location/date TBD] and potentially receive a $100,000 grant.

The EmPOWERED To Serve Urban Health Accelerator expands the work of the American Heart Association (AHA) in local communities as we seek to address social issues impacting the ability of individuals to attain the healthiest life possible. The American Heart Association/Mid-Atlantic Affiliate will pilot a new accelerator designed to engage Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in building of a “Culture of Health” on campus and in their communities.

The EmPOWERED To Serve Urban Health Accelerator – HBCU Challenge was developed as a multi-faceted strategy and requires models that impact the campus (students and employees) as well as addresses critical needs in the communities surrounding the campus. All strategies must focus on policy, system and environmental changes designed through lens of “equity first.”

Critical steps to complete:
  • Identify a faculty or administrative lead
  • Build a multi-disciplinary student team representing key departments (i.e., business, public health, urban planning, agriculture, food service/hospitality, etc.)
  • Design the strategy to include a plan for sustainability, future funding and potential for scalability, health impact and reach
  • Project scope should include innovative, entrepreneurial strategies
  • Complete a market assessment/analysis to identify the most pressing community needs.

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What does it cost?

This program is provided at no cost to you other than your time, dedication and the belief that the impossible can be possible.

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Who should apply?

Multi-disciplinary student teams from HBCUs located in Maryland, Washington, D.C., Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Augusta, Georgia.

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What are the minimum requirements?


Most of our interactions will happen virtually, so you will need to have consistent access to the internet. Occasionally, we will host video conferences and we’d love to see your face, so having access to a video camera and headphones will ensure an optimal experience. Your existing desktop or laptop video camera should be fine.


Plan to devote at least eight to ten hours per week to your individual work and any team activities. We’ll coordinate calendars to find the best time to meet once we have a group identified. Two representatives from your school should also plan to attend the EmPOWERED To Serve Leadership Summit on February 28TH in Charlotte, NC. If selected as a finalist, your team will also attend the EmPOWERED To Serve Urban Health Accelerator – HBCU Showcase [date/location TBD]

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How can I position our concept to receive the grant?

Step One – Look Around and Identify Problems.

Are there health-related problems you know you can solve that will directly transform communities? In what ways could you address social determinants of health that create disparities in health access and outcomes and impact the campus (students and employees) and surrounding communities?

Consider these examples of urban health-related problems that need solving:
  • Affordable Housing
  • Air Pollution
  • Childhood Obesity
  • Chronic Disease
  • Clean Water
  • Healthcare
  • Health Insurance
  • Hunger
  • Internet Access
  • Lack of Access to Healthy Food
  • Obesity
  • Public Health
  • Public Transportation
  • Safe Streets
  • Smoking

Step Two – Commit to building and implementing a plan.

Wherever you are in the process of implementing your idea, our team will work with you to build a solid plan. During the accelerator you will be expected to start implementing your idea within the community in small or large ways. Strategically, where can you help advance the goals of the university? What are the most pressing community needs (both on campus and in your surrounding area)? Where is the school having impact on addressing social determinants of health and addressing barriers to access?

Step Three – Apply to the EmPOWERED To Serve Urban Health Accelerator HBCU.

We’re excited and anxious to ‘meet’ you and hear your ideas. The Mid-Atlantic Affiliate is home to many outstanding HBCUs and the UHA-HBCU Challenge, application and coaching process are designed to help you stand out and help us get to know you better. There are two tasks you’ll need to complete:

Submit a video:

Create a 2 minute video where you’ll introduce your team, the project concept, and why you’re college is the to lead. Follow these additional tips and guidelines to help you prepare. Take a look at some of the AHA’s Take Me Home videos which demonstrates community need and strategies.

Complete an online application:

You’ll have to answer general questions about yourself and your company (addresses, phone numbers, URLs, etc.) through a series of short answer questions. These questions will focus on your project/solution, the impact it will have on the community and how you will measure this impact.

The application form will be available on January 14th. So gather your information, make your video, and come back ready to apply.

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What is the schedule for the accelerator?

Because the process is intense, and we have to cover a lot of ground in a short period of time, we highly recommend that you review the following dates before you apply.

January 14th – February 8th: Call for Applications
January 14th – February 4th: Webinar series for interested students and faculty
February 28th: Two team members (one faculty/administrator and one student) from each applicant school will be invited to attend the EmPOWERED To Serve and Urban Health Accelerator – HBCU Leadership Summit in Charlotte, NC where the five finalists will be announced.
March 4th – April 30th: Candidates will be invited to join the final list of teams who will participate in the accelerator.
Up to five finalists will be selected from all the participating teams to present at the Showcase [location TBD]. These teams will spend an additional week preparing to present their ideas, prototypes and stories in front of a panel of judges.
TBD: Finalists will present their business solutions at the EmPOWERED To Serve Urban Health Accelerator – HBCU Showcase April 2019 (Location TBD), in the hopes of being awarded the $100,000 grant.

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What can you expect from us?

  • Our expertise: We will offer your team eight weeks of training and coaching on topics ranging from digital marketing to customer discovery and from brand experience to brand story telling all provided by experts in the field.
  • Our network: We will not only connect you to other like-minded entrepreneurs, but also with a vast network of business leaders in the areas of marketing, PR and finance.
  • Our encouragement: We will offer our support to you throughout the process in the form of resources, people and our belief in you.

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What do we expect from you?

  • Your time: The training period will be intense and time consuming. If you are serious about the process and the potential of being awarded the grant, you need to be prepared to set aside eight weeks of time to this project.
  • Your dedication: You will need to fully commit to this project and the process, which includes hitting each deliverable on a tight timeline.
  • Your determination: You have to believe you can achieve the impossible under tight conditions.

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What can you tell me about confidentiality and intellectual property?

Confidentiality is not guaranteed in any way. However, the process is set up in such a way that during the training you will not be asked to share information about your project with other teams. In the same manner, we will not share information about your project with other teams during training. If a team wishes to keep elements of their concept or idea confidential, the team should not include that information when it presents during the Summit. There is no way for The American Heart Association or its organizers to enforce a prohibition of other candidates, audience members or judges who see or hear a pitch from sharing the concept, idea, and/or materials with others.

By participating in the EmPOWERED To Serve Urban Health Accelerator – HBCU candidates agree that The American Heart Association, EmPOWERED To Serve and all related parties assume no liability, and shall have no liability or obligation whatsoever for disclosures of information provided by a candidate as part of a submission or otherwise during the course of the accelerator or Summit.

Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) between a candidate and the judges and/or audience members will not be required or allowed.

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Do you have questions about the accelerator?

We’re happy to answer any and all of your questions:

General Questions:
Michelle Raphael
Christa Chambers-Price

PR/Media Questions:
Roxana Hoveyda

Thank you to the EmPOWERED To Serve Urban Health Accelerator™ HBCU Collaborator
Community Campus Partnerships for Health