December 22, 2020
A running program that encourages both physical and mental health. An art initiative that aims to reduce isolation and improve overall well-being. A food therapy program that stresses the importance of food on the brain, gut and heart.
These efforts are all among the finalists of the Well City Challenge, a "Shark Tank"-like competition seeking innovative solutions to improve millennial health.
The 15 finalists in the incubator and pitch competition were chosen from more than 100 applicants from throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania. The pitches fall under three themes: Community and Social Connection, Food and Nutrition, and Mind/Body.
The contest was created by the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia and Independence Blue Cross.
In early 2021, the finalists will be paired with mentors from the Economy League's network to help develop and refine their concepts. They eventually will pitch their concepts to judges during a virtual competition. More than $50,000 in prizes are at stake.
Here are the finalists in each category:
• Hey, Auntie!, a virtual multigenerational matching service to support millennial women in all areas of life including love, family and work.
• Hike+Heal, a women’s hiking hive that will offer healing hikes to increase physical, mental and spiritual wellness in Philadelphia.
• Let's Talk Philly Conversation Circles, a partner of The Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians that helps immigrant millennials learn English conversation skills and share their stories to combat stereotypes and prejudice.
• Mind Your Art, a collaboration between Fleisher Art Memorial and Juntos. The initiative uses hands-on art-making to help build connections, reduce isolation and improve overall well-being for millennials.
• The HERO Group Health Coaching Program, a pro bono, group health coaching effort that helps millennials take ownership of their health and make lasting health and behavioral changes.
• Brain Gut Heart Wellness, a food therapy program that teaches cooking while also providing an open space to talk about mental health and reinforce the importance of food on the brain, gut and heart.
• Land-based Jawns, an organization that offers education and training to Black, Indigenous and people of color on natural agriculture, food sovereignty, survival skills, carpentry and community healing. The lessons will be based on author Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower series.
• Philly Food Therapy, an effort to provide a holistic healthy food experience by bringing together healthy ingredients from local farms and physical activity.
• The Freedom Greens & Gardens Project, an effort to reimagine Malcolm X Park and surrounding blocks as a wellness destination within the heart of West Philadelphia.
• The Welcome Spot: Interfaith Connection, Coffee and Conversation in South Philly, an effort to connect existing faith communities in South Philadelphia to develop community programming and create space for millennials to connect over coffee.
• Philly’s Big Breath, an effort to help everyone, but especially Black and Brown millennials, heal from trauma.
• Racial Healing & Mindful Transformation in Asian American Community, a effort to create space for Asian American millennials to heal from racial trauma through virtual forums focusing on mindfulness, resilience, self-compassion and social support.
• Shear Balance, a program that brings mental health awareness to beauty salons and barber shops.
• Strides, a running program that encourages millennials to prioritize both their mental and physical health.
• VeloLingo, a program designed by the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia to provide immigrant, refugee and underrepresented millennials throughout Greater Philadelphia and South Jersey with virtual bicycle education classes and socially-distanced community rides led by bilingual and multilingual instructors.
"We are thrilled to have received such a diverse representation of community-led applications focused on improving millennial health in Greater Philadelphia," said Nick Frontino, managing director of the Economy League of Greater Pennsylvania.
"It's clear there is no shortage of everyday innovators around our region who want to bring creative solutions to the social sector, and we are looking forward to rolling up our sleeves and supporting Well City Challenge teams in their journey toward impact."
The Well City Challenge was inspired by a 2019 Blue Cross Blue Shield report that found millennials had a double-digit increase in the prevalence of eight top health conditions, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes.
Nearly one third of millennials also have a mental or behavioral health condition, according to a 2020 follow-up report. The most prevalent conditions are major depression, ADHD and substance abuse.
"The millennial generation faces many difficult health challenges, unlike other generations before them," said Marcy Rost, executive vice president, chief strategy and communications officer for Independence Blue Cross. "We are pleased that the Well City Challenge has engaged the community to raise awareness. We're also excited about these 15 ideas and their potential to improve lives in a meaningful way."