Irish technology start-up Elemental Software has won the chance to work alongside the Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street after developing a social prescribing platform which links people to a range of non-medical support such as exercise and debt advice.
The brainchild of two community development workers based in Derry, Northern Ireland, Elemental was one of four winners in the UrbanChallenge awards which were organised by the West Midlands Combined Authority and Govtech venture firm PUBLIC.
The competition aims to find ways to use technology to take on key future challenges and make the West Midlands a better place to live.
More than 120 entries from start-ups in 40 cities across eight countries were received and the winners of the four challenges were announced at iCentrum yesterday (Thursday). The winners each receive a prize worth £20,000 and a three-month pilot with the WMCA.
Elemental won the award in the wellbeing challenge which asked start-ups to find innovative ways to improve health, and in particular mental health.
Elemental’s cloud-based platform harnesses digital technology to enhance social prescribing, the model of care which links people to a wide choice of non-medical support. Exercise programmes, cookery classes, debt advice and ‘green prescriptions’ such as gardening are all proven to reduce health inequalities, leading to a better quality of life, improved health and wellbeing and lower levels of depression and anxiety.
In areas where social prescribing is already in effect, the statistics are striking. Studies show pressure on health services is significantly reduced, with GP consultation rates down by 28 per cent and A&E attendance by 24 per cent.
Critically, the Elemental platform enables community providers and health and social care professionals to accurately monitor and measure the effectiveness of programmes and services. With this information, they are then able to tailor provision to meet the particular needs of their community.
Jennifer Neff, co-founder of Elemental Software, said: “We’re thrilled to be announced as winners and work alongside the Mayor and the West Midlands Combined Authority to empower local communities to take control of their own health and wellbeing.”
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “Technology has such an important part to play in transforming the efficiency and quality of public services which is why I was so keen to launch this competition and challenge technology start-ups to find answers. Using technology to improve health and wellbeing was one of the key aims of this competition and I am fascinated by the project Elemental has developed.
Over the coming months, the WMCA will be working with them to develop the concept for the West Midlands and I look forward to reporting back on our progress.”