BCHD’s New TECHealth Civic Innovation Program Launches

Baltimore TECHealth Logo

Baltimore City Health Department is launching the first cohort of TECHealth (Transforming Engineering for Civic Health), a program to engage members of Baltimore’s thriving technology and design community to solve pressing public health challenges in the city.

Following the completion of the three-month design and development phase, teams will present their projects to key health, innovation, and government stakeholders.

Teams will then be eligible for a micro-grant from Baltimore City’s TECHealth Innovation Fund to support further development. Qualifying teams will also be eligible for a spot in the Accelerate Baltimore program at Baltimore’s award winning incubator, ETC (Emerging Technology Centers). 

If you're interested in more information, visit the TECHealth website or contact Mike Fried.

Baltimore TECHealth Program Model

For the 2016-2017 TECHealth cohort, there are seven teams participating. Below is a short profile of each of the projects, the team leads, and the housing organizations.


Fearless Tech TECHealth BCHD

Project 1: Automated Health-Of-The-City Dashboard and Early Warning System

Team Captain: Letitia Dzirasa

Partner Organization: FearlessTech

BCHD Contact: Darcy Phalen-Emrcik

Problem: Every month, BCHD receives data from a vast range of sources that provide information regarding key indicators of health in the city, such as the top causes of death or rates of chronic disease in that time period. Currently, the process of extracting and analyzing the important parts of that data are completely manual, which limit the capacity for analysis. BCHD needs a comprehensive and easy-to-access system to get a holistic look at trends of health in the city.

Opportunity: Automating the extraction of the data related to an important set of key indicators will enable the creation of a better snapshot of the state of health in the city in real time. This will also enable earlier detection of changes in trends (e.g. spikes in overdose deaths).

Impact Hub TECHealth BCHDProject 2: Estimating The Level Of Asthma In Neighborhoods

Team Captain: Angela Wells-Sims

Partnering Organization: Impact Hub

BCHD Contact: Jana Goins

Problem: BCHD has limited information on geographic variation in the level of asthma in adults and children because asthma is currently measured as the rate of emergency department visits by ZIP code. With estimates at a more granular level of geography, BCHD could target its limited resources more effectively to prevent and treat asthma.

Opportunity: The goal of this potential project is to estimate the level of asthma among adults and children by neighborhood using emergency department and hospitalization data in combination with Medicare and Medicaid claims data. Ideally, the project would also utilize data from the city’s housing department. BCHD epidemiologists and BCHD asthma program staff would use the tool’s findings to inform decision-making at BCHD and at other city agencies, assess programs and policies, and to target BCHD’s limited resources to prevent and treat asthma. Once developed, this tool could potentially be used by other health departments, assuming adequate input data are available.

Neighborhood Center TECHealth BaltimoreProject 3: Civic Health Engagement/Public Health Ambassador Platform

Team Captain: Jayne Chartrand

Partnering Organization: Neighborhood Design Center

BCHD Contact: Sonia Sarkar

Problem: Community involvement is critical to the success of many of BCHD’s outreach efforts, from youth violence prevention to raising awareness about Zika and decreasing overdose deaths. Community engagement is a key component of BCHD’s work, yet traditional methods of community engagement typically require individual outreach or outdated lists and limited insight into how to match community capacity with ongoing health campaigns. For the next generation of public health, we need to move beyond the prevention of disease to engaging individuals to take charge of the health of their city.

Opportunity: Creating a platform through which individuals are incentivized to mobilize as public health ambassadors and help push BCHD community outreach efforts will improve the effectiveness of community engagement strategies. This could involve a social network platform to connect these individuals to each other, create a central hub for public health involvement, as well as engage in friendly competition.

UMMS TECHealth BCHDProject 4: CFR/FIMR Confidential Task Tracking

Team Captain: Chris Meenan

Partnering Organization: Spark Baltimore

BCHD Contact: Cathy Costa

Challenge: The Child Fatality Review and Fetal-Infant Mortality Review are monthly meetings of two cross-functional task forces which review all cases of suspicious death of children in Baltimore City.  Their purpose is to monitor and evaluate processes across agencies, identify gaps in services, and make recommendations for improvement.  The meetings themselves as well as the data reviewed are confidential and include the family’s medical history, interactions with social services, criminal records, and other protected health information.  The entire proceedings of the meetings are confidential.

The teams, which consist of health, social service and other experts from the community, make recommendations for change which team members are expected to follow-up on. 

Currently, there is no method in place to track the progress of these follow-ups, which can include policy recommendations, changes in processes, or new funding proposals.  These tasks are connected to the original cases, which means that their details are protected under HIPAA and must be housed within the health department, with restricted user access.

Opportunity: Creating a comprehensive, confidential database to record and track the progress of recommendations and follow-ups will help with ensuring their completion.  This could include the ability to add tasks (and any associated confidential information), assign owners, track their status through completion, and a simple dashboard to track the progress of assigned tasks (while the tasks can contain protected health information, the overall goals and their progress is not confidential). 


Code in the Schools TECHealth BCHDProject 5: Heroin Notification and Outreach System

Team Captain: Michael LeGrand

Partnering Organization: Code in the Schools

BCHD Contacts: Amanda Latimore + Mark O’Brien

Challenge: Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 times more potent than heroin. If individuals are not aware that they are using fentanyl-laced heroin, they are at greater risk of overdosing; deaths related to fentanyl have increased ten-fold since 2013.

Opportunity: Make an outreach platform, consisting of a mobile application / web app / text messaging infrastructure that interfaces with overdose data from EMS to send immediate location based text messages alerts to heroin users in the vicinity who have registered in the app. They can use the information from the alert system to modify their dosage amounts, which will lead to fewer overdose deaths. 

Betamore TECHealth BCHDProject 6: Here4Reentry

Team Captain: Kelly King

Partnering Organization: Betamore

BCHD Contact: Jonathan Gross

Problem: Citizens returning from incarceration have limited support systems.  There are few clearinghouses for such information, and those which do exist are simple directories that have no context nor reviews.  Knowing quality of these resources and having a connection to someone who has navigated them before, can be the key to success for those coming back into their community.  

Opportunity: Here4Reentry is a project is focused around creating a toolset for “returning citizens” to connect socially with one another, learn important information about quality social services, and organize politically to advocate for issues relevant to their lives and their communities. These are our neighbors, our friends and our family.

ETC TECHealth BCHDProject #7: Education Through Food Computers

Team Captain: Melanie Shimano

Partnering Organization: ETC

BCHD Contact: Andy Masters and Laura Flamm

Challenge: In Baltimore, there is a digital divide where many residents do not have access to technology resources or education. It is estimated that 20 percent of the population does not have access to broadband internet. At the same time, access to healthy food is a key determinant of health. Accessing food is a challenge for low-income residents because of food deserts. Keeping both of these major issues in mind, we want to address technology and food in Baltimore.

Opportunity: Creation of A Baltimore after-school program that uses Food Computers (computer-programmed mini greenhouses to grow produce in different “climates”) to teach Baltimore youth the principles of innovation, product development, and health through building the Food Computers and growing different kinds of food.  Using open-sourced Food Computer technology developed at the MIT Media Lab, this team will work with the school system and Health Department staff to develop a curriculum and 

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