IBM Launches New Initiative to Help Communities Tackle Public Health Challenges

NEW YORK: IBM has launched a global corporate citizenship program in which health organizations, selected through a competitive process, will receive the expertise of IBM’s best problem-solving teams with health expertise to help tackle public health issues.

The company is now inviting civil, governmental, and social sector organizations -– such as regional or national health departments, not-for-profits, clinics, and hospitals –- to propose innovative health projects for IBM’s health and technology problem solvers to address. IBM aims to help communities surmount challenges that currently limit access to quality healthcare, and will assist organizations in addressing social and environmental determinants of health, such as safe water and sanitation, stable housing, physical fitness, and nutrition.

Applications may be submitted to IBM starting today through April 20 by visiting

IBM will review all proposals and announce up to five winners later this year. The company will then deploy global teams of IBM’s top talent with health and technical expertise to winning communities, where they will analyze the local health challenge. The IBM teams will recommend detailed solutions, which might include blueprints and strategies for organizational, programmatic, technological, and operational enhancements. The commercial value of each engagement is estimated at USD $500,000.

Says Aspen Global Health and Development Executive Director Peggy Clark: “IBM is taking a truly innovative approach to strengthening health systems. Deploying teams of IBM’s best and brightest across the world, together with its technology, will give health organizations access to the ‘brain’ of IBM. We’re excited to support IBM as they catalyze change for our most pressing health challenges.”

The roots of IBM’s new pro bono health grant program lie in IBM’s existing community service problem solving programs that successfully address issues ranging from urban resiliency to economic development. One such program — IBM’s Corporate Service Corps, often called the private sector version of the Peace Corps — has dispatched nearly 3,000 IBM employees from nearly 60 countries on more than 1,000 team projects across 38 countries over the last eight years.

Projects have included health-related initiatives with partners such International Medical Corps, whose President & CEO Nancy Aossey predicts that “IBM has tremendous potential to improve the health of the most vulnerable populations across the globe. Our partnership with IBM has strengthened our capacity to use data and analytics to increase community resilience to crises, and we look forward to continuing work with IBM to help underserved communities survive and thrive.”

Meanwhile, IBM’s Smarter Cities Challenge, another community service program focused on urban problems such transportation and economic development, has sent IBM problem solving teams to nearly 130 cities worldwide, with approximately 800 IBM top experts delivering pro bono services valued at more than USD $66 million. “A growing number of governments and not-for-profits have been following the success of IBM Corporate Service Corps and IBM Smarter Cities Challenge — particularly the projects that have addressed health issues — and have asked IBM to help with health issues in their own communities, and to share our cognitive computing expertise,” said Jen Crozier, IBM’s Vice President of Global Citizenship Initiatives.

Both Corporate Service Corps and Smarter Cities Challenge have included health-related projects. For instance, IBM pro bono teams have teamed with mayors, government leaders, and non-profits to strengthen data infrastructure, collection and analysis to address food deserts in Birmingham, Alabama; chronic asthma in Louisville, Kentucky; and ambulance responses in Memphis, Tennessee. Other health-related projects have included efforts to improve planning and operations in Ghana, Africa and Cusco, Peru to combat mother-to-child transmission of HIV and cervical cancer.

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