A few local designers have pivoted to create face masks for local health care workers. Photo courtesy of Magpies & Peacocks

The coronavirus is sweeping the globe and creating new challenges. Notably, companies are not able to keep up with the demand for the N95 masks needed to keep the health care workers safe. Now, Houston's fashion industry is stepping up.

Megan Eddings, founder of Accel Lifestyle, says an article she read about the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advising health care professionals to wear homemade masks or bandanas due to the shortage of the N95 masks inspired her. She was compelled to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic locally and nationwide.

"Accel's Prema fabric was created to prevent the growth of bacteria," Eddings tells CultureMap. "The fabric can be washed up to 100 times and it will still be 99.99-percent anti-bacteria."

Eddings says it dawned on her that she has over 500 shirts made, here in Houston, that could easily be recreated into masks. Her supply chain team consists of 20 sewers and she notes that number can quickly double.

"We have enough supplies here to make 9,000 masks and I have 2,800 yards of fabric sitting at my factory in California," she says. "That's enough fabric to make more than 100,000 masks."

Eddings and her team also tell CultureMap that 47,000 yards of elastic is en route to the Bayou City this week.

"I knew this was serious when the president of MD Anderson responded to my Saturday morning email within three minutes of sending," she says. "He's interested, and they want the infection control team to analyze the fabric."

Other local hospitals interested in Accel Lifestyle's masks are Methodist, Texas Children's, Baylor, and Memorial Hermann. The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City has also shown interest as well as Yale's New Haven Hospital in New Haven, Connecticut.

Accel's masks are made out of their specialty anti-bacteria fabric. Photo courtesy of Accel

When Chloe Dao made the decision to temporarily close her Rice Village boutique last Tuesday, offering shopping requests by appointment only, she posted a video to her Instagram account the following day about the emotional roller coaster she's been on surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak.

In the video, Dao says she wanted to play a role in helping her community by creating a pattern and hand sewing 100 washable face masks with pockets. She noted in the caption that the pocket allows for extra filtration but that because it's a fabric mask, it does not stop the spread of the virus. Dao also recommends washing the mask before wearing it.

With production underway since her initial 100 masks, available in small/medium and medium/large, Dao and her team have produced close to 1,000 masks for Houstonians who reached out via social media.

"The requests are overwhelming," a representative for the label tells CultureMap. "We're now shifting our focus to help those on the front line of the coronavirus outbreak; the doctors, nurses, family members of doctors and nurses."

For those who would like to donate to Dao's efforts to continue producing these washable masks, click here.

Houston-based, internationally recognized nonprofit design house, Magpies & Peacocks, and Inclán Studio, a local women's ready-to-wear fashion label, are upcycling together to create nonwoven polypropylene masks, which will be distributed to Houston-area hospitals.

Founder and CEO, Sarah-Jayne Smith and vice president and director of communications/PR, Ahshia Berry, tells CultureMap that partnering together was never a question for either of our brands but more "how can we pull our resources together and help during these trying times."

Clarence Lee, a designer at Inclán Studio, tells CultureMap he searched the studio to find elastic cording that didn't get used in past collections.

"Waste as a resource and upcycling material for good use has never been more important than it is right now," Magpies & Peacocks writes on an Instagram post.

Houston Arts Alliance and Visit Houston donated excess promotional products and now, are deconstructed to reuse the material for these masks.

"It's actually a spun plastic, not a fabric, so it works effectively as a filter, and is more moisture resistant," Magpies & Peacocks tells CultureMap. "It's more compliant and efficient for the current exposure to the service industry in the midst of the crisis."

Lee, who is also a lead designer for Magpies & Peacocks, and serves as an executive board member for the nation's exclusive nonprofit design house, tells CultureMap that for them, it simply boils down to help in any capacity, especially after seeing what's happening across the country with the shortage of supplies.

He notes that they may not have all the supplies, but they do have the capability and time to sew to help those that are on the frontline, fighting and sacrificing everything they have.

"[Houston] is our home, and we all have a part to play in helping fight this," he says. "The [fashion] industry has a major role, and now is definitely the time to show how valuable it can be."

Magpies & Peacocks and Inclán Studio aim to produce 500-600 masks, and hopefully more, should they come across more materials, Lee tells CultureMap. Seven volunteers are helping to sew these nonwoven polypropylene masks.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Houston expert: How technology can be used to bridge the health equity gap

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Progressively over the last decade, the health care industry has become increasingly aware of the role that social determinants of health play in the health outcomes of patients.

Social determinants of health, or SDOH, are the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age, and they have a significant impact on a person's health and well-being. Examples of SDOH include income, education level, housing, and access to healthy food.

One of the key challenges facing health care organizations and providers is how to address health equity gaps, which are the differences in health outcomes between different populations. Health equity gaps are often caused by social determinants of health, and they can be particularly pronounced among vulnerable populations such as low-income communities, racial and ethnic minorities, and those living in rural areas.

Experience management technology has emerged as a powerful tool for addressing these equity gaps. This technology uses feedback, behaviors, and other relevant SDOH data in order to understand the unique needs of different populations and develop targeted interventions to improve their health outcomes.

One of the key ways that experience management technology can help decrease health equity gaps is by segmenting populations by social determinants of health. By collecting data on patients' demographics, such as their age, race, income, and education level, health care organizations can gain a better understanding of the SDOH that are most relevant to each population. This information can be used to develop personalized actions that address the specific needs of each population, rather than relying on a one-size-fits-all approach.

For example, health care organizations could use experience management technology to gather feedback from patients on their access to healthy food. By segmenting the patient population by zip code, health care organizations could identify patients in rural areas who do not have easy access to quality care facilities and providers. These patients could then be targeted with interventions such as transportation assistance programs or care coordination programs, which could help address their specific needs.

In addition to segmenting populations by social determinants of health, experience management technology can also help health care organizations gather insights into patient behaviors. By integrating data on patients' health behaviors, such as adherence to treatment or missed appointments, health care organizations can develop targeted interventions that encourage healthy behaviors.

For example, health care providers could use experience management technology to collect data on patients' treatment habits. Patients who report low adherence to treatment could be targeted with interventions such as treatment education programs or care coaching, which could help them develop healthier habits over time.

Finally, experience management technology can help health care organizations gain insight into their patient’s end to end journey. By integrating data from multiple sources, such as electronic health records, patient feedback, and social determinants of health data, health care organizations can develop a more comprehensive understanding of patients' health needs and brand expectations. This unified illustration allows health care organizations to improve business outcomes such as lower readmission rates, and create loyal patients that will refer their friends and family in the most important and sensitive moments in their lives.

In conclusion, experience management technology has emerged as a powerful tool for addressing health equity gaps by segmenting populations by social determinants of health, understanding and acting on their unique needs through feedback, behaviors, and dynamic integrations. By leveraging this technology, health care organizations can develop unique solutions that improve the health outcomes of vulnerable populations, such as low-income communities, racial and ethnic minorities, and those living in rural areas.

As the health care industry continues to evolve, experience management technology will play an increasingly important role in addressing health equity gaps and improving the health and well-being of patients across the globe.

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Ariel Jones is the head of health care provider solution strategy for Qualtrics XM, an American Experience Management company providing software solutions for customer and employee experience.

New sports festival reveals plans to take over downtown Houston next spring

pokatok prep

A Houston team announced their plans to bring the “world’s fair for sports” to downtown Houston in April 2024.

Pokatok, the four-day festival, will feature a sports tech expo, a film festival, speakers and panels, live music, pitch competitions, and more. The venue will be George R. Brown Convention Center, Discovery Green, and various nearby hotels, according to the release.

Gow Companies, founded by Lawson Gow (who is the son of David Gow, InnovationMap's parent company's CEO), announced that the team has secured support from Houston First, the Greater Houston Partnership, and the Harris County Houston Sports Authority to put on the event, which is slated to take place April 4-7, 2024. The company also owns Houston Exponential and a sports accelerator called Pokatok Labs.

“Pokatok will not only be the largest gathering of the entire sports tech ecosystem, it will also be a true fan festival for sports enthusiasts,” says Gow in the news release. “Everyone speaks the language of sport, it’s an incredibly powerful unifier of our society, and this festival will bring together people from around the world to experience hundreds of events revolving around the new and the next in sport.”

The festival will take place in April 2024 in downtown. Rendering courtesy of Pokatok

The festival will feature two tracks — one focused on sports innovation and the other surrounding a fan experience. Pokatok X will include an expo and showcase focused on sports innovation, bringing together startups, investors, accelerators, athletes, and industry experts to dive into sports tech.

The Pokatok Fan Festival's track will include product releases, demos for sports technology, sporting events, competitions, tournaments, and more.

Houston is no stranger to hosting major sport events, Harris County - Houston Sports Authority CEO Janis Burke points out in the news release, including the 2023 NCAA Men’s Final Four and the upcoming 2024 College Football National Championship, the 2024 Cricket World Cup, and the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

"Houston is known as one of the best sports destinations in the world," Burke continues. "As an organization, we are consistently looking for ways to innovate and grow in the sports sector. Events like Pokatok are great for advancing sports within the region and providing unique opportunities for our community!"

Tickets are expected to go on sale in the fall, and the organization is looking for potential speakers and partners. The festival's name derives from sport of pok-a-tok, which dates back thousands of years as the world’s first team sport played throughout Mesoamerica.

“The City of Houston is a sports town to its core and has been host to some of the greatest events and moments in sports,” says Mayor Sylvester Turner in the release. “Pokatok will help further Houston’s vision of being a destination city for global sporting events and innovations. The business community also supports this venture, and I thank them for their involvement and support. This project is an excellent example of local business leaders joining forces to expand the attractions the City has to offer to both residents and visitors.”

Pokatok will take place in and around the George R. Brown Convention Center. Rendering courtesy of Pokatok

Rice University team wins innovation challenge supported by Accenture

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A team of students from Rice University may see their award-winning idea incorporated into programming from the nonprofit Smithsonian Institution — the world’s largest museum, education, and research complex.

Rice’s Team Night Owls, made up of four undergraduates, recently won Accenture’s 2023 Innovation Challenge. The team’s winning concept: a three-month, six-town mobile bus exhibit designed to expose the Smithsonian to residents of rural areas in the U.S. One of the highlights of the exhibit would be an augmented reality/virtual reality feature.

The Rice team competed against more than 1,100 applicants. Participants were asked to “envision ways to deliver the spirit and wonder of in-person visits” at the Smithsonian to rural communities nationwide.

“Our biggest takeaway from the challenge was learning how to generate innovative ideas and then combine the best aspects from each one to include into one coherent solution,” says one of the team members, Sean Bishop.

Accenture is providing pro bono support to the Smithsonian to help turn the Rice team’s “Rural Routes” concept into reality. Ideally, the Smithsonian hopes to incorporate the team’s idea into its 2026 celebration of the country’s 250th birthday.

Officials say they liked the Rice team’s proposal because it would be a way for the organization to familiarize rural America with the Smithsonian while also collecting and displaying the stories of rural residents.

“We hope to amplify the voices of rural Americans and raise the visibility of their cultural stories,” the Smithsonian says in a statement provided to InnovationMap.

Nico Motta, a rising junior studying business and data science at Rice, says his team’s idea was born out of a desire to bring the Smithsonian to people and bring people to the Smithsonian.

“From there, two different ideas emerged that we eventually brought together. First, we connected the idea of campaign buses that allow political candidates to travel to smaller communities,” Motta tells InnovationMap. “Second, we researched existing Smithsonian initiatives and were intrigued by the Crossroads program, a stationary exhibit shipped out to community centers.”

The team then brainstormed ways to marry the two ideas. The result: the Rural Routes project.

Aside from Motta and Bishop, members of the Rice team are Eva Moughan, a rising junior studying math and operations research at Rice, and Austin Tran, a rising junior studying business and statistics.

Bishop, a rising senior studying chemical and biomolecular engineering at Rice, says the Rural Routes entry stood out partly because the team:

  • Dug into how to finance the exhibit.
  • Supplied examples of similar projects that have achieved success.
  • Folded augmented reality/virtual reality into the project.

Organizers believe the Rice team’s winning entry embodies the competition’s goal this year to generate “bold ideas and innovative thinking” about introducing more Americans to the Smithsonian.

“The Accenture Innovation Challenge invites students seeking to do well and do good to collaborate on solving real and real-time business challenges for leading nonprofits. The students’ innovative ideas make the nonprofit better able to achieve its mission, and together we work to implement the winning solution,” says Marty Rodgers, senior managing director of Accenture’s U.S. south region and executive sponsor of the Accenture Innovation Challenge.