CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) announced today the 11 finalists of the 2012 Health Innovation Challenge. The Challenge, launched in March 2012, invited North Carolina’s entrepreneurs, community leaders, citizens and university students to submit innovative solutions to help reduce obesity across the state and increase the competitiveness of the North Carolina economy.
“We received a great response to our call for innovative ideas, which we hope will help improve the overall health of North Carolinians and reduce the obesity rate in North Carolina,” said Sean Kerns, BCBSNC vice president of Diversified Markets. “This challenge gave us the opportunity to tap into the vast depth of knowledge of individuals across our state to influence and impact change.”
The 11 finalists and their business idea include:
  • Waterra – installs filtered water dispensers in schools that chill and infuse municipal water with low calorie vitamins.
  • The Walking Classroom – educational fitness program that allows fifth  graders to listen to standards-based curriculum podcasts while taking a brisk 20-minute walk.
  • MATCH – multi-disciplinary program for eighth graders to set personal health goals, learn nutritional decision-making skills and track progress through an awards-based challenge.
  • ChallengeWave – helps communities and companies host healthy weight challenges.
  • Closed Loop Healthcare Systems – uses social media to provide a peer support group and ongoing guidance for those struggling with their weight.
  • INRFOOD – a smart-phone app that allows users to scan food to determine its health attributes.
  • Sqord – an incentive-based game sparking kids’ exercise using accelerometers.
  • LoMo Market – brings the farmer’s market to neighborhoods through a mobile grocery store.
  • Healthy Black Hair – a head wrap designed to keep an African-American woman’s head cool and their hair sweat-free as they work out.
  • Cook for Good – teaches people how to cook organically for less than $5 a day.
  • Nash County Health Department – provides healthy foods into under-served communities. 
“Through the Challenge, BCBSNC, Bull City Forward and the Institute for Emerging Issues provided a great opportunity for entrepreneurs across the state to share and bring their innovative ideas to the table,” said Anita Brown-Graham, Institute for Emerging Issues director. “Ideas that we are confident will impact change across the entire state of North Carolina.”
The Challenge received more than 60 entries, and 24 semi-finalists provided a short presentation to a panel of judges on June 15. Bull City Forward is offering an entrepreneurial coaching program for the 11 finalists that includes:
  • Mentors – Each finalist will be paired with an experienced mentor to help them prepare for the final presentation.
  • Workshops – The finalists will participate in several workshops that will help them fine tune their ideas and final presentations.
  • Peer networking and other social events.
"It is really energizing to see the number of innovative ideas emerging across North Carolina to tackle obesity,” said Christopher Gergen, Bull City Forward executive director. “We are excited to work with the finalists over the coming weeks to take their high-impact ventures to the next level."
The 11 finalists will give a final presentation in September. From the pool of 11 finalists, up to three winners will be selected and announced the last week of September. The winners will receive up to $20,000 and additional mentoring support for their winning idea.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is a leader in delivering innovative health care products, services and information to more than 3.6 million members, including approximately 900,000 served on behalf of other Blue Plans. For 78 years, the company has served its customers by offering health insurance at a competitive price and has served the people of North Carolina through support of community organizations, programs and events that promote good health. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina was named one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies by Ethisphere Institute in 2012. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. Visit BCBSNC online at
About Bull City Forward and Queen City Forward:
Bull City Forward and Queen City Forward are community efforts working to dramatically increase the creation, scale, and impact of social enterprises in Durham, NC and Charlotte, NC.  We are guided by the conviction that in purposefully recruiting, enabling, and scaling social enterprises and socially driven entrepreneurs, Durham can create a robust cluster of innovation for the region that will spur economic development, improve the lives of citizens, and produce a new model of urban development.  Thus, the mission is “to enable entrepreneurs to create positive change.”
About the Institute for Emerging Issues (IEI):
The Institute for Emerging Issues (IEI) is dedicated to North Carolina’s future competitiveness. By supporting collaboration among individuals from all sectors and areas of the state, IEI builds an enduring capacity for progress.