Health Innovations Contest 2016


Published: May 2, 2016

As part of National Public Health Week 2016, SPH students were HealthInnovationsContest2016invited to present their ideas for improving the world in this year’s Health Innovations Contest.

The national theme for this year’s celebration was “Healthiest Nation 2030,” sponsored by the American Public Health Association, with a focus on building a nation of safe, healthy communities; helping all young people graduate from high school; the relationship between increased economic mobility and better health; social justice and health; giving everyone a choice of healthy food; preparing for the health effects of climate change; providing quality health care for everyone; and strengthening the public health infrastructure.

Six UNTHSC public health students shared proposals, with Shelby Graves and Etienne Jaime Hinojosa winning the contest in a tie. Both are pursuing their MPH degrees in Community Health.

Shelby presented an idea for a new cell phone app called “Is this Love?” to encourage young adults toward healthy relationships.

“The idea,” she said, “is about empowerment and growth. There are so many issues today with teenage interpersonal violence, harassment, threats, respect, boundaries and building healthy romantic relationships, that it is important for young adults to have a tool to help them.”

She proposed that the app would be free and could include a customizable format for setting and tracking goals, a chat component, daily activity logs, thoughts and reflections through a personal journal, and an opportunity to connect with a mentor or trusted adult. A teen committee could help guide development of the app by offering advice on preferences and usability, she said.

Etienne’s idea focused on a natural mosquito repellant from the Neem tree, or Indian lilac tree, a tropical evergreen native to India and other southeast countries that has long been used as a natural medicine for healing various health conditions.

Neem oil as a repellant was developed in Mexico, and Etienne’s presentation looked at how a Neem topical solution or spray could now be distributed as a safe, chemical-free alternative for repelling mosquitoes in pregnant women, to prevent spread of the Zika virus.

He will be working in Nicaragua this summer on a professional practice experience, where he hopes to look more into this healthy alternative for Zika prevention.