‘We need fresh perspective’: Healthcare officials turn to NKU vaccine idea challenge

Updated: Apr. 27, 2021 at 6:55 AM EDT
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HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. (FOX19) - Northern Kentucky University is evaluating the results from a vaccine idea challenge for students in the region.

NKU’s Institute for Health Innovation partnered with St. Elizabeth Healthcare and the Northern Kentucky Health Department to set up this program focused on getting accurate and timely COVID-19 vaccination information to medically underserved communities.

The program calls for creative strategies to ensure equity and increase access to the COVID-19 vaccine.

“We need fresh perspectives on this and who better to do that than students?” says the university’s vice president for health innovation, Valerie Hardcastle.

“They are the next generation of leaders, they’ve got different perspectives, their cognitive systems aren’t as set in stone the way mine are. From there we decided to make it into a competition, a fast competition.”

Participating teams make five-minute videos for a chance to win cash prizes ranging from $250 to $2,000 and finalists compete in a live virtual event presenting their proposals.

The panel of judges is from IHI, St. Elizabeth Healthcare, the Northern Kentucky Health Department and community leaders representing communities underserved.

“Time is quick and it just sort of evolved from there, and so my institute was willing to run it and put forward the prize money to incentivize students to do it,” Hardcastle adds.

NKU’S VP of Health Innovation at NKU also thought this would be, as she put it, ‘good for students to do during that lull between mid-terms and finals when interest kind of drops off.’

Dr. Hardcastle said the idea to get students more involved came from a large research meeting with representatives from NKU, Xavier University, University of Cincinnati and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

Those representatives were working on a survey looking at demographics in communities, willingness to get the vaccine, access to COVID-19 information and vaccine hesitancy.

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