Finalists selected for Michigan Health Equity Challenge


The Michigan Health Equity Challenge recently announced the selection of 10 project finalists for the challenge, which aims to engage University of Michigan graduate students in developing community-based solutions to health equity challenges in southeast Michigan.

The challenge was established through a $100,000 grant from the MolinaCares Accord and Molina Healthcare of Michigan, given to the School of Public Health in the fall of 2023. The school’s Griffith Leadership Center is hosting and managing the program.


“Students possess the vision to offer fresh perspectives and solutions to tackle our most urgent issues,” said SPH Dean F. DuBois Bowman in announcing the challenge in November. “Thanks to MolinaCares, students who win the Health Equity Challenge will be able to transform their proposals into actionable initiatives, address historical inequities in health care, and change lives.” 

The finalists will partner with local community-based organizations, applying their multidisciplinary approaches to diverse health and social policy domains. Each finalist’s project will receive an initial grant of $2,000 and participate in a mentorship and training program that runs through March.

Later this year, two projects will be selected for an additional $1,000 and their partner organizations also will receive up to $50,000 to implement the program.

The finalists and their projects are:

Wolfgang Bahr and Irving Suarez

School of Public Health, School of Social Work

Developing a program for Latin American immigrants in Michigan to address heart disease through stress management and community health leadership initiatives.

Mehak Bhansali

School of Public Health

Develop a comprehensive intimate partner violence-resource toolkit delivered as a mobile application that will be divided into five IPV-centric resource pillars: law, finance, food and clothing, children, and mental health. The application aims to advance health equity by eliminating the complexities women encounter while finding and accessing IPV support resources.

Natalie DeLiso and Brooke Troxmondo

A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, School for Environment and Sustainability

Addressing health disparities in southeast Michigan by conducting a geospatial analysis of health, social and environmental indicators to identify opportunities to implement housing design strategies aimed at improving health outcomes.

Eunji Ko

School of Dentistry

Address oral health disparities among low-income children in Michigan, particularly in Detroit, by bridging communication gaps between dental nonprofit organizations, schools and parents. Through community-level engagement and educational presentations at school events, the initiative aims to instill a shared understanding of oral health’s significance, fostering collaborative solutions and promoting behavioral changes.

Xinyu Liang

Stephen M. Ross School of Business

Recognizing many students may face barriers to seeking in-person support for mental health services, this project proposes a community-based program that leverages audio-only telehealth and family support. The program aims to bridge these gaps and ensure that mental health consultation is a right, not a privilege.

Olivia Morris

Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy

Address health coverage gaps in Washtenaw County, with a specific focus on the needs of African Americans 65 and older. Interventions include providing tailored information on health coverage, particularly for those dual eligible for Medicare and Medicaid. Additionally, the project involves a critical component of relationship-building and outreach efforts within the African American community, ensuring effective communication and fostering trust for informed health care decision-making.

Damilola Olukorede

College of Pharmacy

Development and deployment of a mobile application in tandem with focused public health awareness efforts to help to promote the active participation and retention of African Americans in cancer clinical trials.

Sarah Shimizu and L Tantay

School of Social Work

As queer and trans people of color, we see our LGBTQIA+ communities of color in Detroit being harmed by a lack of competent mental health care. By partnering with a community-based organization in metro Detroit, we seek to improve access for our communities through capacity building training and direct mental health funding for LGBTQIA+ Detroiters of color.

Sarah Small and Alexandra Soos

Medical School, School of Public Health

Address the needs of the unhoused and unsheltered community of Washtenaw County by conducting a needs assessment and interviewing individuals with lived experience, connecting with local organizations to maximize utilization of services, and providing supplies necessary for survival with a hope to rebuild trust in a community prone to systematic injustice.

Melissa Zochowski

Medical School

Collaborating with neurodivergent patients and clinicians, Zochowski will develop and implement sensory-friendly, neurodiversity-affirming reproductive health-care delivery practices. At increased risk for unintended pregnancy and likely to forego or delay care, neurodivergent individuals of reproductive age represent a significant portion of the unmet need for reproductive health care.


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