Speakers present at Startup Week Louisville. Credit: Charlie Garwood
Speakers present at Startup Week Louisville. Credit: Charlie Garwood

The University of Louisville and partners will fund 15 promising solutions to improve health equity as part of a $1.5 million innovation challenge. 

The Reconstruct Challenge is led by the UofL Health Equity Innovation Hub (HEIH), in partnership with Render, an innovation studio, with funding from the Kentucky Department for Public Health’s Office of Health Equity and the private operating foundation, Access Ventures.

Each of the 15 winners will be awarded $100,000 grants to further their ideas and will participate in a 12- to 18-month proof-of-concept phase where they will work with community partners and UofL researchers to pilot their innovations in the Louisville region. After this period, innovators will have the opportunity to receive additional follow-on funding to scale their innovations, maximizing their impact. 

The winners, listed below, also will present their solutions and projected impact at showcase events open to the public during three consecutive evenings at Startup Week Louisville from Sept. 18-20. 

Reconstruct Challenge: Food Justice

  • Feed Louisville
  • Change Today, Change Tomorrow
  • Journey Foods
  • The Nori Project
  • Free from Market 

Reconstruct Challenge: Maternal and Child Health

  • Cook’s Nook
  • Melanated Healthcare
  • Every Mother’s Advocate
  • Granny’s Birth Initiative
  • Navigate Maternity 

Reconstruct Challenge: Health Access

  • Malama Health
  • Kare Mobile
  • Maro
  • Kyndly
  • Zenyor Healthcare 

More than 100 organizations submitted proposals for this iteration of the Reconstruct Challenge focused on health equity, with applications from across the country. Proposals were evaluated by a panel of experts from the Louisville community, industry experts, and academic researchers. Of those receiving grants, 80 percent are women-led, and 67 percent are led by Black or brown founders. Eight of the 15 winners are from the Louisville area with the remaining seven originating from across the US.

In addressing challenges marginalized and low-income individuals and families face surrounding health equity, these innovative solutions include autonomous grocery stores, care communication platforms, fresh food vending machines, and mobile dental clinics.

“We’re calling on our city to embrace these innovators,” said Stacy Brooks from EDI Foundations, an expert in corporate diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives who is working with winners to facilitate deployment of solutions in Louisville at industry partner pilot sites. “The Louisville business community has a unique opportunity here. By collaborating with the Reconstruct winners, they can contribute to the development and implementation of cutting-edge solutions that directly address health disparities. This is about forming meaningful partnerships that yield tangible and sustainable impact for the foreseeable future.” 

This Reconstruct Challenge builds on the work of UofL’s Health Equity Innovation Hub, an innovative partnership including UofL, Humana Inc. and the Humana Foundation. The Hub aims to remove the structural barriers to health for the populations it serves and focuses on solving important health equity challenges through research, innovation, and talent pipeline development. The challenge follows the prior successes of the two previous Reconstruct Challenges launched by Access Ventures in 2019 and 2022 addressing housing and barriers to employment, respectively. This Reconstruct Challenge series, executed by Render, is funded by the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services and Access Ventures.

For more information about the Reconstruct Challenge, please visit reconstructchallenge.com.