viernes, 9 de diciembre de 2016

HIV Health Improvement Affinity Group

HIV Health Improvement Affinity Group

HIV HEALTH IMPROVEMENT AFFINITY GROUP


HIV Health Improvement Affinity Group wordle

WHAT IS THE HIV HEALTH IMPROVEMENT AFFINITY GROUP?

The HIV Health Improvement Affinity Group (HHIAG) offers federal support for state-level efforts to improve rates of sustained virologic suppression among Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) enrollees who are living with HIV. Those efforts are guided by teams of state public health and Medicaid/CHIP agencies collaborating to improve health outcomes by identifying opportunities to strengthen the HIV care continuum among these populations.
The HHIAG is a 12-month joint initiative between the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), in collaboration with the HHS Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy, and in partnership with the National Academy for State Health Policy.
Participating states will develop and implement one or more performance improvement projects that address gaps along the HIV care continuum to increase the proportion of Medicaid and CHIP enrollees living with HIV who achieve better outcomes along that continuum.

CORE PARTICIPANTS

The response to the invitation to join the group was greater than expected. Based on prior experience with these groups, it was expected that 6 to states would elect to participate, but a total of 19 states applied to join the group. These states represent diverse regions from around the country and account for more than half of all people in the United States who were living with diagnosed HIV in 2013. The participating states are: Alaska, California, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.
  • State teams may include:
  • State Medicaid agency staff who will support the project to improve access to, utilization of, and quality of HIV preventive and care services
  • State health department staff who will coordinate with State Medicaid/CHIP programs to support and extend their efforts to bolster access to, utilization of, and quality of HIV preventive and care services among Medicaid eligible and enrolled populations
  • Staff from CDC, CMS, and HRSA, who will provide or facilitate access to needed technical assistance
  • Other state and local partners, such as primary care associations, federally qualified health centers, local health departments, and other relevant public and private entities.

HOW DOES THE AFFINITY GROUP WORK?

Group members began their work via webinar in October 2016, and at an in-person meeting in Washington, DC, in December 2016. For a 12-month period, they will participate in monthly state team calls with CMS, CDC, and HRSA, and in monthly HHIAG virtual meetings with other states and quality improvement experts.
State-level teams work together in three different learning communities: data linkage and outcomes; data analysis and utilization for delivery system improvement; and provider engagement and quality improvement. The communities give participants an opportunity to learn from one another and to receive technical assistance as they develop and refine a viral suppression improvement plan for their state.
What are the benefits for participants?
  • State participants receive direct technical assistance that supports improved HIV-related outcomes among Medicaid and CHIP enrollees through better organization, coordination, delivery, and assessment of high-quality HIV prevention, care, and related support services.
  • The Affinity Group also provides an opportunity for state-to-state learning and sharing of best and promising approaches to improve viral load suppression among people living with HIV (PLWH) who are enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP.
  • The HHIAG also builds stronger collaborative relationships among state Medicaid/CHIP programs, state public health departments, and other partners (public or private; federal, state, or local) who are well-positioned to advise and support efforts for maximum impact.
In addition to the direct benefits that states gain from their participation, HHS and the HHS agencies that are supporting this effort expect to gain valuable lessons from the work of the Affinity Group that will be useful to other states wanting to improve viral suppression and may identify other opportunities to further improve HIV and other health outcomes.

LEARNING COMMUNITIES

Learning communities will give participants opportunities to learn from one another and to receive technical assistance at the meeting and throughout the year, as they develop and refine plans to improve viral suppression in their states.

DATA LINKAGE AND OUTCOME LEARNING COMMUNITY

The improvement plans for the six states in this learning community (California, Georgia, Iowa, Maryland, North Carolina, and Wisconsin) will focus on instituting or expanding currently limited data-sharing activities, as well as analyzing these data to identify targets for performance improvement.
All the members of this learning community have some foundation on which to build broader data-sharing agreements, including some history of exchanging data. In addition, many of these states indicated that they will use shared data to evaluate outcomes along the care continuum for HIV-positive Medicaid/CHIP beneficiaries, as well as to report results for the viral load suppression (VLS) measure included in the CMS Adult Medicaid core set. These states also intend to use their newly improved capacity to evaluate system effectiveness at multiple levels and along multiple dimensions (e.g., specific beneficiary subpopulations, service providers, and care delivery models) for continuous quality improvement and public health actions.

DATA ANALYSIS AND UTILIZATION FOR DELIVERY SYSTEM IMPROVEMENT LEARNING COMMUNITY

All six states participating in this learning community (Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, Rhode Island, and Washington) have elected to expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act. As the majority of Medicaid/CHIP beneficiaries living with HIV in these states receive their health care through a managed care organization (MCO), increasing collaboration and engagement with Medicaid MCOs is crucial for accomplishing these states’ goals. This group’s focus is on using data to identify quality-improvement opportunities. Some states hope to use aggregate or state-level data analyses to identify areas where they can make delivery-system improvements. In their preliminary plans, these states propose several mechanisms to create change in delivery systems, including: using existing Medicaid authorities to make new evidence-based services available to people living with HIV/AIDS; promoting integration of services funded by Medicaid and the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program; encouraging systems that focus on interdisciplinary care teams; and accelerating value-based purchasing through accountable care organizations.
While data analysis at program and state levels is useful for improving delivery systems and health policies, it is necessary to integrate and analyze client-level data across federally funded HIV programs to improve care coordination and avoid duplication or misalignment of services. While these states have made great strides in overcoming barriers to sharing data and information, more work can be done to reduce the administrative burden of data-sharing and to include MCO care-management and quality-improvement projects focused on HIV care, especially those aimed at measuring, reporting, and reducing HIV viral load among those enrolled in Medicaid.

PROVIDER ENGAGEMENT AND QUALITY IMPROVEMENT LEARNING COMMUNITY

Members of this learning community (Alaska, Connecticut, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Virginia) plan to improve clinical outcomes and achieve greater VLS rates through increased efforts to engage providers and improve quality of care. Because engagement and retention in care are critical to help PLWH achieve and maintain VLS, the improvement plans in this group focus on developing mechanisms to better share data between their state’s public health and Medicaid organizations. These improved information-sharing mechanisms will help states to identify people who may have been unable to access care or who have fallen out of care and get them into treatment.
Each state already has a unique system for collecting clinical and diagnostic information on its clients. While these states have made great strides in increasing their VLS rates, the teams will be doing more work to determine the unmet needs of PLWH and help to navigate them into care. Specific plans focus on collaborations between the public health and Medicaid teams to improve screening and testing, identify gaps in care, increase engagement in care, and improve surveillance techniques to identify quality-improvement opportunities.

blog.aids.gov − CMS, CDC & HRSA Host State Medicaid & Public Health HIV Health Improvement Affinity Group

blog.aids.gov − CMS, CDC & HRSA Host State Medicaid & Public Health HIV Health Improvement Affinity Group



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CMS, CDC & HRSA HOST STATE MEDICAID & PUBLIC HEALTH HIV HEALTH IMPROVEMENT AFFINITY GROUP

Rich Wolitski - headshot - March 2016
Richard J. Wolitski, Ph.D., Director, Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
On December 6-7, the 19 state teams that form the HIV Health Improvement Affinity Group* (HHIAG) will meet in Washington, DC, to develop new approaches for achieving better outcomes along the HIV care continuum for their Medicaid/Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) beneficiaries who are living with HIV.
These teams will be comprised of a cross-section of staff from state public health and Medicaid/CHIP agencies, who will be grouped into three learning communities:
  • Data linkage and outcomes
  • Data analysis and utilization for delivery system improvement and provider engagement
  • Quality improvement
The communities will give participants opportunities to learn from one another and to receive technical assistance at the meeting and throughout the year, as they develop and refine plans to improve viral suppression in their states.
Data Linkage and Outcome Learning Community
The improvement plans for the six states in this learning community (California, Georgia, Iowa, Maryland, North Carolina, and Wisconsin) will focus on instituting or expanding currently limited data-sharing activities, as well as analyzing these data to identify targets for performance improvement.
All the members of this learning community have some foundation on which to build broader data-sharing agreements, including some history of exchanging data. In addition, many of these states indicated that they will use shared data to evaluate outcomes along the care continuum for HIV-positive Medicaid/CHIP beneficiaries, as well as to report results for the viral load suppression (VLS) measure included in the CMS Adult Medicaid core set. These states also intend to use their newly improved capacity to evaluate system effectiveness at multiple levels and along multiple dimensions (e.g., specific beneficiary subpopulations, service providers, and care delivery models) for continuous quality improvement and public health actions.
health-affinity-group-image-dec-2016Data Analysis and Utilization for Delivery System Improvement Learning Community
All six states participating in this learning community (Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, Rhode Island, and Washington) have elected to expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act. As the majority of Medicaid/CHIP beneficiaries living with HIV in these states receive their health care through a managed care organization (MCO), increasing collaboration and engagement with Medicaid MCOs is crucial for accomplishing these states’ goals. This group’s focus is on using data to identify quality-improvement opportunities. Some states hope to use aggregate or state-level data analyses to identify areas where they can make delivery-system improvements. In their preliminary plans, these states propose several mechanisms to create change in delivery systems, including: using existing Medicaid authorities to make new evidence-based services available to people living with HIV/AIDS; promoting integration of services funded by Medicaid and the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program; encouraging systems that focus on interdisciplinary care teams; and accelerating value-based purchasing through accountable care organizations.
While data analysis at program and state levels is useful for improving delivery systems and health policies, it is necessary to integrate and analyze client-level data across federally funded HIV programs to improve care coordination and avoid duplication or misalignment of services. While these states have made great strides in overcoming barriers to sharing data and information, more work can be done to reduce the administrative burden of data-sharing and to include MCO care-management and quality-improvement projects focused on HIV care, especially those aimed at measuring, reporting, and reducing HIV viral load among those enrolled in Medicaid.
Provider Engagement and Quality Improvement Learning Community
Members of this learning community (Alaska, Connecticut, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Virginia) plan to improve clinical outcomes and achieve greater VLS rates through increased efforts to engage providers and improve quality of care. Because engagement and retention in care are critical to help PLWH achieve and maintain VLS, the improvement plans in this group focus on developing mechanisms to better share data between their state’s public health and Medicaid organizations. These improved information-sharing mechanisms will help states to identify people who may have been unable to access care or who have fallen out of care and get them into treatment.
Each state already has a unique system for collecting clinical and diagnostic information on its clients. While these states have made great strides in increasing their VLS rates, the teams will be doing more work to determine the unmet needs of PLWH and help to navigate them into care. Specific plans focus on collaborations between the public health and Medicaid teams to improve screening and testing, identify gaps in care, increase engagement in care, and improve surveillance techniques to identify quality-improvement opportunities.
*The HHIAG is a joint, 12-month initiative between the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), in collaboration with the HHS Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy, and in partnership with the National Academy for State Health Policy, to support state collaborations to improve rates of sustained viral suppression among Medicaid/CHIP enrollees who are living with HIV.

blog.aids.gov − CMS, CDC, & HRSA Launch HIV Health Improvement Affinity Group for State Medicaid Programs

blog.aids.gov − CMS, CDC, & HRSA Launch HIV Health Improvement Affinity Group for State Medicaid Programs

CMS, CDC & HRSA Launch HIV Health Improvement Affinity Group For State Medicaid Programs

June 24th, 2016 :: AIDS.gov Blog
CMS logo
This week the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) announced the launch of a new joint initiative: the HIV Health Improvement Affinity Group.

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CMS, CDC, & HRSA LAUNCH HIV HEALTH IMPROVEMENT AFFINITY GROUP FOR STATE MEDICAID PROGRAMS

cms-logo-smallThis week the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) announced the launch of a new joint initiative: the HIV Health Improvement Affinity Group [PDF 91 KB].
The HIV Health Improvement Affinity Group will bring together state public health and Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) agencies to collaboratively improve health outcomes for Medicaid and CHIP enrollees living with HIV by identifying opportunities to strengthen the HIV care continuum among these populations. Participating state public health and Medicaid/CHIP programs will have an opportunity to learn about and share best and promising approaches with their state peers to improve viral load suppression among people living with HIV who are enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP.  State teams will also receive direct technical assistance that:
  1. Supports improved HIV-related outcomes among Medicaid and CHIP enrollees; and
  2. Builds stronger relationships among state Medicaid/CHIP programs, state public health departments, and other partners (e.g., primary care associations (PCAs), federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), local health departments, and other relevant public and private entities).
Participating states each will develop and implement one or more performance improvement projects. Expressions of interest from states are due in August. The 12-month project period will begin with a kick-off meeting of representatives from the participating states in October.
The initiative is among the actions that the participating federal agencies committed to executing in the National HIV/AIDS Strategy Federal Action Plan.
For more information about the HIV Health Improvement Affinity Group and the application process, please visit https://www.medicaid.gov/medicaid-chip-program-information/by-topics/benefits/prevention.html or contact Abigail Viall at 404-639-2010 or aviall@cdc.gov.

#CoverageMatters: Being Insured Helps Me Fly

Dept. of Health & Human Services

#CoverageMatters: Being Insured Helps Me Fly

Dan Foley. Raleigh, North Carolina.
When you’re riding a BMX bike, it feels like you’re on a roller coaster. But instead of being stuck on a track, you’re free to go wherever you want.
I’ve been really fortunate to get paid to ride. It started out as a hobby when I was younger, and I loved doing it more than anything else. I’m 26, I’m still riding and I’m able to make a living off of it. But the job doesn’t provide health insurance, and you can imagine how important coverage is to a BMXer doing the type of riding that I do.
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, I was able to stay on my parents’ plan until I turned 26. I stressed out a little bit about signing up on HealthCare.gov, because I had heard some bad things from critics. But my girlfriend, who had enrolled last year, was like, “just do it; it takes like 15 minutes.” And she was right. It was extremely easy to shop and sign up for a Health Insurance Marketplace plan.
READ MORE: #CoverageMatters: Being Insured Helps Me Fly
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MMWR Vol. 65 / No. 48

mm6548

MMWR Logo
 
MMWR Weekly
Vol. 65, No. 48
December 09, 2016
 
PDF of this issue



In this report

Consumption of Combustible and Smokeless Tobacco — United States, 2000–2015
Teresa W. Wang, PhD; Brandon Kenemer, MPH; Michael A. Tynan; et al.
MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2016;65:1357–63

State Medicaid Expansion Tobacco Cessation Coverage and Number of Adult Smokers Enrolled in Expansion Coverage — United States, 2016
Anne DiGiulio; Meredith Haddix; Zach Jump, MA; et al.
MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2016;65:1364–9

The figure above is a photograph of a health care provider meeting with a patient.
Comprehensive state Medicaid coverage of cessation treatments is associated with increased use of cessation medications and increased quit rates among smokers enrolled in Medicaid.

Influenza Vaccination Coverage During Pregnancy — Selected Sites, United States, 2005–06 Through 2013–14 Influenza Vaccine Seasons
Stephen Kerr, MPH; Carla M. Van Bennekom, MPH; Allen A. Mitchell, MD; Vaccines and Medications in Pregnancy Surveillance System.
MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2016;65:1370–3

CDC Grand Rounds: Modeling and Public Health Decision-Making
Leah S. Fischer, PhD; Scott Santibanez, MD; Richard J. Hatchett, MD; et al.
MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2016;65:1374–7

Notes from the Field: Plague in Domestic Cats — Idaho, 2016
Ahmed M. Kassem, MBBCh, PhD; Leslie Tengelsen, PhD, DVM; Brandon Atkins, MS; et al.
MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2016;65:1378–9

Notes from the Field: Investigation of Elizabethkingia anophelis Cluster — Illinois, 2014–2016
Livia Navon; Whitney J. Clegg; Jodi Morgan; et al.
MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2016;65:1380–1

Erratum: Vol. 65, No. 44
MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2016;6565:1382

QuickStats: Percentage Distribution of Respondent-Assessed Health Status Among Adults Aged ≥25 Years, by Completed Education — National Health Interview Survey, United States, 2015
MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2016;65:1383

Notifiable Diseases and Mortality Tables
Link to PDF for Notifiable Diseases and Mortality Tables
Link to additional formats for Notifiable Diseases and Mortality Tables

Hear and Now Noise Safety Challenge Winners: Part 1 of 3 | NIOSH Science Blog | Blogs | CDC

Hear and Now Noise Safety Challenge Winners: Part 1 of 3 | NIOSH Science Blog | Blogs | CDC
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC twenty four seven. Saving Lives, Protecting People

Hear and Now Noise Safety Challenge Winners: Part 1 of 3

Posted on  by Garrett Burnett, MS, MBA and Amanda Terminello, MPH

Every year 22 million workers are at risk of losing their hearing from workplace noise hazards. Work-related hearing loss is a widespread problem, but it is a problem that can be solved. On August 1, 2016, NIOSH, OSHA, and MSHA issued a challenge to inventors and entrepreneurs with the dual goals of inspiring creative ideas and raising business awareness of the market for workplace safety innovation. More than 30 entries were submitted and the top ten were invited to present their ideas at the Hear and Now Noise Safety Challenge event on October 27, 2016. A panel of judges consisting of business experts, investors, and innovation specialists listened to pitches, asked questions, and selected three winners based on the assumed effectiveness of the solution combined with its commercial viability. This blog entry is the first in a three-part series summarizing the solutions presented by the Challenge winners and finalists. References to products or services do not constitute an endorsement by NIOSH or the U.S. government.

1st Prize Winner:  Nick Laperle and Jeremie Voix

eers_img2
Photo courtesy of EERS
In a noisy environment, workers have a dangerous choice: protecting their hearing or being able to communicate with team members. It is a conundrum Nick Laperle has pondered for a long time. His parents were pioneers in establishing hearing health clinics across Quebec. The meal time conversation in the Laperle household swirled around ears and decibels. Not surprisingly, Mr. Laperle has been working in hearing-related industries and has been involved with international organizations to eradicate noise-induced hearing loss for the last twenty years.
When he founded his own company, he took on the challenge of both blocking dangerous noise and enabling communication in loud environments. It is something that traditional or standard hearing protection does not currently allow. He also wanted to create a product that could monitor how well the hearing protection fits in users’ ears because workers are not generally aware of whether or not their hearing protection is adequate. Mr. Laperle recruited Jeremie Voix to lead the technical development of the project. Dr. Voix, publisher of over 65 research articles and 15 designs and patents, began developing innovative algorithms to enhance the auditory experience.
At the Hear and Now Noise Safety Challenge, Mr. Laperle and Dr. Voix presented EERS, an industrial IoT (Internet of Things) device designed to provide industrial hearing protection, high noise communication, and monitoring. The EERS hardware includes noise-blocking ear plugs that connect to a small monitor that is worn on the worker’s body. The earplugs contain in-ear microphones with Bluetooth connectivity that allow for clear phone or radio communication. EERS analyzes the fit and protection level when a worker inserts the earplugs. If the earplugs aren’t fitted properly at any point during the day, an auditory signal warns the worker to refit the earplugs.
The EERS monitor continuously tracks and stores data regarding the use of the device. Workers’ protection levels are continuously logged and wirelessly transmitted. If any issues arise, the system sends warnings to management so they can take corrective measures as needed. An optional smartphone app can also provide educational information to workers while enabling them to personally monitor their hearing health.
“We’ve been focused on one goal,” Mr. Laperle explained: “To develop a system that will end this problem at a price to fit every H and S [health and safety] budget. With EERS, a worker can communicate and stay protected at all times, a health and safety administrator can review reports on the status of their worker’s hearing health, and an executive can sleep well knowing hearing loss is being addressed for his workers and the company.”
Mr. Laperle and Dr. Voix are rolling out the beta program with three manufacturing companies in early 2017 and are currently exploring opportunities to promote and further this innovative hearing solution.
The panel of judges selected Mr. Laperle and Dr. Voix as the winners of the Hear and Now Noise Safety Challenge. For Mr. Laperle, it was another step down the path his parents had blazed across Quebec all those years ago.
More about this Hear and Now Challenge finalist, including contact information, is available at the following website: http://eers.ca.

2nd Prize Winner: Brendon Dever

When Brendon Dever started in the construction industry, he noticed that products designed to protect workers were not necessarily keeping pace with modern technology. He saw an empty space in the occupational safety and health market for innovative solutions to common safety and health problems. He pulled together a team of engineers and designers and set out to tackle a problem that is prominent in construction (as well as in many other industries): noise-induced hearing loss. In 2013, Mr. Dever and his cousin Clark Dever with partners Ralph Lewis, Brian Bezanson, George Hampton, and Bryan Seymour began exploring the idea of using wearable sensors that would personalize worker safety. They designed a system, which they called Heads Up Safe, for alerting workers about dangerous noise levels, recording hazard data, and providing noninvasive communication to work crews.
At many worksites, noise levels fluctuate and workers may not be aware of the dose of noise they are exposed to. The idea from the Heads Up Safe team was to combine an inexpensive wearable sensor with an unobtrusive alert system. After consulting with audiologists and neuroscientists and testing prototypes with hundreds of workers, the team built a sensor that is affixed to glasses or head protection—which they refer to as a “glider”—and a software platform that records and reports the data collected by the sensor. The glider lights up with color-coded alerts and warnings based on input from the sensor. The glider wirelessly transmits exposure metrics to mobile devices and the cloud. The recorded measurements are used to calculate time-weighted averages, which are compared against permissible exposure limits. As workers approach these limits, the system is designed to notify both the worker (via lights on the glider) and management (using cloud-based reporting).
headsup
Photo courtesy of Heads Up Safe
At the Hear and Now event, Mr. Dever demonstrated the noise sensor (which he wore attached to his glasses), the notification system, and the data reporting tool. He explained how the software and hardware are now integrated into a mobile app that ties the lighting system on the glider to incoming messages on the worker’s phone so the lights can provide alerts on more than just noise readings. According to Mr. Dever, workers will only receive phone messages via the glider that are relevant to their work, which should minimize distractions from mobile phones and maximize their use as job tools.
Currently, Mr. Dever and his team are focused on serving existing customers and growing their new business venture. However, the team plans to extend the technology in the future to address other personal-monitoring safety issues such as temperature, humidity, noxious gas, and silica exposure.
More about this Hear and Now Challenge finalist, including contact information, is available at the following website: www.headsupsafe.com

3rd Prize Winner: Madeline Bennett

In 2013, fans of the Seattle Seahawks NFL football team broke the world record for producing the most noise ever in a sports stadium with an ear-splitting 137.5 dB. To put this into perspective, being in an environment that is 115 dB can cause permanent hearing damage in less than 30 seconds. This impressive feat of lung power inspired Madeline Bennett. As she pondered a class assignment as a student at the University of Washington, Ms. Bennett thought about ways to encourage rowdy sports fans to protect their hearing as they cheered. She fell upon the idea of creating a detachable earplug attachment that transformed dull hearing protection into something cool. She thought she could remove the social stigma of using earplugs. Ms. Bennett has a history of social entrepreneurship as the founder of the nonprofit organization Owl Be Better with Music, which recently celebrated its 5th anniversary, so she was ready to turn her classroom Eureka into a product.
She started by assembling a team. Ms. Bennett recruited Dr. Kelly Tremblay, an audiologist and neuroscientist with numerous published works. Traci Bennett was brought onboard to lead operations based on her experience as a small business consultant. Designer Serina Rockwell took creative lead thanks to her packaging design experience with brands like Disney, Nike, and ABC family.
otogear_img1
Photo courtesy of Octogear
The team created prototypes with the idea that hearing protection should not only protect ears from dangerous decibel levels, but that it could also make a fashion statement. They called their invention Otogear. Ms. Bennett and her team had the vision of turning Otogear into the go-to collectable memorabilia for workers, concert-goers, sports fans, and even award show attendees. The team hoped that in loud-noise situations, Otogear would get people excited about using hearing protection.
Ultimately Ms. Bennett wants to see Otogear decorating ear plugs, no matter the occasion.
As Ms. Bennett explained at the Hear and Now Noise Safety Challenge event, she wanted Otogear to be an extension of a user’s personality. She said, “Kids, teens, adults and seniors can enjoy wearing hearing protection, which can lead to a new generation of hearing protection users.” Each Otogear pair is matched with hearing protection with dB reduction ratings ranging from 15 to 35 dB for all types of noise environments. The team’s patent on Otogear is pending, and they are currently working on branding opportunities with event promoters, manufacturing companies, and sports teams. Ms. Bennett is currently trying to raise additional funding and support required for tooling, product development, prototype creation, and market entry.  The markets envisioned by Ms. Bennett’s team include manufacturers, businesses, and workers for whom hearing protection in noisy work environments is critical for avoiding job-related hearing loss.
The judges awarded Ms. Bennett third prize for her innovation, an honor she added to laurels earned in the Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge and University of Washington’s Foster School of Business Business Plan Competition.
More about this Hear and Now Challenge finalist, including contact information, is available at the following website: http://www.otogear.net/.
Watch for next week’s blog highlighting three of the Challenge finalists.

Garrett Burnett, MS, MBA, is a technical advisor in NIOSH’s Research to Practice Office and an assistant coordinator for NIOSH’s Small Business Assistance Program.
Amanda Terminello, MPH, is a Public Health Advisor in NIOSH’s Research to Practice Office.
Posted on  by Garrett Burnett, MS, MBA and Amanda Terminello, MPH