Yalies in hunt for million

Five Yalies are in the running for $1 million prize from Bill Clinton.

A group of students from the Schools of Public Health and Management are among 300 teams progressing to the semi-final round of the Hult Prize Competition.  For the past four years, the contest has brought students together to tackle global health challenges as part of the largest student contest in the world, with roughly 10,000 teams entering the first round in the most recent competition..

This year, participants will present solutions for addressing noncommunicable diseases in slums. Former President Bill Clinton, whose foundation funds the competition, will personally present the $1 million check to the winning team.

“This is about bringing innovators worldwide together to try to tackle some of the big social and economic health issues that we have,” said Hilary Rogers ’13 SPH ’14, a member of the Yale team.

Out of the roughly one billion slum dwellers in the world, 250 million suffer from a chronic disease, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease or cancer, Rogers said. This year’s challenge is to create a business model that can tackle the high prevalence of these diseases. But more than simply benefiting society, the business has to be self-sustaining, which means it must produce a profit, Rogers said. While the team would not reveal their plan, Rogers said it will emphasize prevention and early diagnosis.

According to Rogers and Yale team member Lexy Adams ’13 SPH ’14, one of the team’s greatest strengths is the diversity of the skills it represents. The five members have backgrounds in chronic and microbial disease epidemiology, health management, social and behavioral sciences, and management.

Rogers said other team members’ experiences working on the ground in slums have helped the team devise effective solutions, adding that the team is using the slums of Mumbai as a case study.

“Mary’s and my experiences in the Bombay [another name for Mumbai] slums makes it easier to decide which ideas are feasible or not,” Adams wrote.

The semi-final round takes place on March 7 across different cities, including Boston, San Francisco, London, Dubai, Sao Paulo and Shanghi. The Yale team, which will compete in Boston, is currently moving from brainstorming to crystallizing their strategy, said Mary D’Alimonte ’13 SPH ’14. She added that they had pitched their ideas to the School of Management’s Social Impact Lab to get feedback from students with experience in entrepreneurship.

For the first round, teams submitted biographies describing the strengths of the group but did not outline their business proposals for preventing and treating disease, according to Yale team member Zerrin Cetin SOM ’15.

When the Yalies arrive in Boston on March 7 for the regional competition, they will first deliver a 15-minute pitch of their plan. The finalists from the first round will then vie for first place at regionals. The six regional winners will participate in a business incubator over the summer and will compete for the million-dollar prize in August, Adams said in an email.

The Clinton Global Initiative, an initiative of the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, was established in 2005.

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