Today, the Henry L. Hillman Foundation formally announced the Healthy Allegheny Challenge, a countywide contest that will award $1.5 million to support ambitious, innovative approaches to public health in our region.

The judges are looking for a project for a traditionally underserved neighborhood that broadly focuses on one of five county priorities, as laid out in the 2017 report Plan for a Healthier Allegheny: access to care, risky behaviors, protecting the environment, child and maternal health and mental health, which includes disorders related to substance abuse.

In an interview with NEXTpittsburgh, Hillman Family Foundations President David Roger said the goal of the program is to open up the most vexing problems of public health to the widest range of ideas possible.

“We’re open to any type of unconventional approach,” said Roger. “We really think this is a chance to try something new.”

While only a single project will be chosen for the grand prize, Roger said the stronger proposals may still find support from the organization.

“We’re not committing to anything,” he explained. “But we think this might surface other new ideas that we might be interested in pursuing.”

Applicants must register by October 17, and submit their proposal by November 19. The winner will be announced in February 2020, and the funds will be granted over two to three years, depending on the project.

“In recent years, great progress has been made to improve the health of the people who live in Allegheny County using the Plan for a Healthier Allegheny as a roadmap,” said Dr. Karen Hacker, the outgoing Director of the Allegheny County Health Department. “Despite those efforts, there is still much to be done to improve environmental quality, fight obesity and tobacco use, increase access to care, address mental health and substance abuse issues, decrease infant mortality and encourage people to adopt healthy behaviors.”

Every project must have at least one nonprofit partner. However, Roger said they highly encourage all types of community organizations, volunteer groups, government agencies, school districts and private entities to collaborate on proposals.

“Pittsburgh has been blessed by the legacy of Henry Hillman and his wife Elsie, who worked tirelessly for decades to improve the quality of life we all enjoy,” said County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. “Their forward-thinking vision and legacy lives on through efforts like this innovative public health challenge, which will spark ideas and partnerships to drive real change.”

Going forward, Roger said that the challenge, if successful, could be adapted for a wide range of social issues.

If it works, we may be willing to apply this in other areas,” Roger speculated. “It could be a challenge in public transit or affordable housing or local food production.”

Learn more about the project and how to apply here.

Bill O'Toole

Bill O'Toole was a full-time reporter for NEXTpittsburgh until October, 2019. He previously reported in Myanmar.