Nine healthcare CEOs will battle for grant dollars in the competition known as "EmPOWERED To Serve," which will take place this week in Washington, D.C. (Adobe Stock)

“Shark Tank” Battle to Bring Health Care to Low-Income Neighborhoods

By: Diane Bernard, Public News Service

ARLINGTON, Va. — A unique competition is being held this week for healthcare entrepreneurs with ideas for getting underserved communities better health solutions. This Thursday, October 17, nine business leaders will compete for thousands of dollars of EmPOWERED To Serve Business Accelerator grants from the American Heart Association.

One competitor, Andrew Suggs, is CEO of the Baltimore company Live Chair. They developed and support an app that aims to improve the health of African-American men by training their trusted barbers to check clients for common ailments.

“Initially, Live Chair is targeting hypertension, but in the future, we plan to tackle other chronic diseases like diabetes, CVD or COPD,” Suggs said. “Our mission is to transform the barbershop into the hub of health for black men.”

The event will begin at 6:30 Thursday evening at the National Museum of African American Culture and History in Washington, D.C. Anyone can view the competition online at empoweredtoserve.org, and can participate by voting for their fan favorite.

Other businesses in the competition include a company making a wearable device to help people manage their diabetes and a grocery store located within a subsidized housing complex – the first in the nation. Rhonda Ford-Chatmon, vice president of volunteers with the American Heart Association, said the goal is to promote innovators developing wellness programs that tackle challenging problems in low-income neighborhoods.

“What we’ve seen is the people in the communities know what they need to do to solve their issues. We just need to help them get the resources they need to do so,” Ford-Chatmon said.

Studies show health is a major concern in many low-income neighborhoods that lack easy access to health care and wellness programs. According to a 2015 Urban Institute report, low-income adults in the U.S. have higher rates of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and other chronic disorders than wealthier Americans.


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