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Business School Projects Tackle Diabetes Management with Tech

Mobile messaging and social networking play roles in the two winning entries of a recent challenge that encouraged student teams to come up with solutions to address non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Sponsored by IBM and pharmaceutical company Novartis, the invitation-only contest was open to top universities and business schools around the world. Twelve institutions accepted the NCD University Challenge, which launched in mid-2011 and ran through early December.

During the competition, teams received mentoring and subject matter coaching from both companies to add industry expertise to their knowledge and research.

In North America, both Haas Business School at the University of California Berkeley and Schulich School of Business at York University in Ontario competed.

Haas' entry, a pharmacy-based membership for low- to middle-income pregnant women, was one of the two top finishers. 2Vidas, intended to address the growing epidemic of diabetes in Mexico, is intended to help participants with diabetes manage blood sugar levels through their pregnancies. The solution encompasses access to health monitoring tools through pharmacies, motivation through peer-led community sessions, and positive SMS messages and reminders that reward self-management and offer health tips.

Team members included: Emily Ewell, Jenny Chang, Tara English, and Rachel Sherman. The team said the program could save women between 58 and 98 percent of out-of-pocket monitoring costs, depending on frequency of use. It would also save the health system an average of $110 per year per participant through improved diabetes control. The students estimated that 2Vidas would deliver $10.4 million in cost savings and $475,000 in added value creation over five years.

Spain's Esade Business School at Ramon Llull University offered the other winning program. Dr. Diabetes was designed for use in urban China and uses smart phones to connect patients, physicians, and pharmacies to manage the treatment process.

Although the winning programs were developed with specific countries in mind, the solutions could be applied elsewhere and to other non-communicable diseases such as asthma, cancer, and stroke, the contest administrators said.

The winning teams will receive recognition during award ceremonies at IBM's headquarters in Armonk, NY and Novartis' headquarters in East Hanover, NJ. They'll also receive guidance from the venture capital community to commercialize their solutions.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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