CVS Health Foundation, partners take aim at campus smoking

BY David Salazar

WOONSOCKET, R.I. — In its latest public health effort to curb smoking, the CVS Health Foundation is partnering with the American Cancer Society and Truth Initiative to provide grants to help U.S. colleges and universities push for smoke- and tobacco-free campus policies. The grants are part of the organizations’ efforts to expand the number of campuses that prohibit smoking and tobacco use.

The availability of grants coincides with the organizations awarding $1.2 million in grants to 126 schools working toward tobacco-free campuses, including Stanford University, 34 historically black colleges and universities and 49 community colleges. The grants are part of CVS Health’s five-year, $50 million Be The First initiative, which supports education, tobacco control and healthy behavior programming all aimed at creating the first tobacco-free generation.

"We are at a critical moment in our nation's efforts to end the epidemic of smoking and tobacco use, and expanding the number of tobacco-free college and university campuses is an important step in our efforts," CVS Health Foundation president Eileen Howard Boone said. "We're confident our strategy will drive a significant decline in the number of new college-age smokers, and contribute to the progress being made where a tobacco-free generation in the U.S. seems possible."

According to a recent CVS Health survey, 73% of Americans and 8-in-10 current U.S. college students indicated their support for policies looking to curb smoking and tobacco uses on campuses. Additionally, 57% of U.S. college students said that a tobacco-free campus was important to them when considering applying to or attending a college.

"While we have made great progress driving down the smoking rate to 6 percent among youth, the prevalence of smoking by young adults is 14.2 percent and those who attend college have a higher risk of initiating and experimenting with smoking," Robin Koval, CEO and President of Truth Initiative, said "With 99 percent of smokers starting before age 26, college campuses are critical in preventing young adults from starting tobacco use, aiding current smokers in quitting and reducing exposure to secondhand smoke for all. We are thrilled to be working with the CVS Health Foundation to provide grants to minority-serving institutions, HBCUs, and community colleges to give them the tools to go tobacco-free and be the generation that ends smoking."

Since 2016, the CVS Health Foundation has awarded more than $3 million in grants to 146 colleges and universities.

"Tobacco is the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the United States. Cigarette smoking is responsible for approximately 30 percent of all cancer deaths, killing up to half of its users," American Cancer Society CEO Gary Reedy said. "By partnering with the CVS Health Foundation to create tobacco-free campus environments, we can reduce youth tobacco exposure, prevent students from becoming addicted, and ultimately, reduce the number of people who get sick and die from cancer and other tobacco-related diseases."


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Emerging companies clock pace of innovation

BY Mark Hamstra

For a real-world look at the speed at which innovation occurs and what it means to truly have an innovation mindset, a panel of start-up companies — each at various stages of development and maturity — talked about the white spaces their organizations targeted and the solutions they created to fill those voids at a special Health Innovation Summit, hosted by CVS Health in partnership with Drug Store News and Mack Elevation in June.

Following is a brief recap of the companies that participated in the June 13 discussion.

Teddy Hodges, the founder and CEO of Chicago-based BraceUnder, is deeply familiar with the medical issues that his product seeks to treat and prevent. A veteran of several knee surgeries who struggled with knee braces, Hodges saw the need for such a product as BraceUnder, which is a customizable compression garment system designed for injury recovery and prevention.

The system is made from a compression tight and reusable, orthopedic tape, which work together to facilitate movement control and assist in reducing injury risk. The tights are designed for fashion and comfort, as well as versatility — users or such medical professionals as trainers can apply the orthopedic tape to achieve optimum results.

The system leverages what the company calls “smart thermogenesis” — the body’s own heat-generating mechanism — to reduce swelling from the hip joint to below the knee. The product, currently available for pre-order, has been tested by more than 150 wearers, including more than 20 professional athletes.

Chrono Therapeutics
Chrono Therapeutics, based in Hayward, Calif., is developing a wearable, transdermal drug delivery system designed to help people quit smoking.

The Chrono system delivers nicotine doses of various levels based on the predicted timing of a user’s peak cravings. The system offers support tools and coaching via an app to assist the user in giving up cigarettes. The technology also supports compliance measurement and data analytics. Early clinical trials have shown that the system has been successful in reducing cravings, the company said.

Last fall, Chrono Therapeutics, a recipient of the World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer Award, received $47.6 million in series B financing. “This financing will bring us closer to commercializing our system for smoking cessation, and also enable us to dive more deeply into other applications where we can make a major impact and save lives,” said Alan Levy, chairman and CEO of Chrono Therapeutics. combines a mobile app with a wearable device to alert users to certain sleep disorders, including tooth grinding, snoring and obstructive sleep apnea.

The system leverages the fact that about 70% of people only snore when they are sleeping on their back. The “Do I Snore or Grind” app detects snoring sounds and sends a signal to the Anti-Snore Wearable, a strap worn around the arm, which then vibrates as a reminder for the wearer to turn onto their side.

The app also records the sounds of snoring and tooth grinding during sleep, which can then be presented to a doctor and can help users identify whether or not such factors as alcohol or medication are having an impact on their snoring and grinding. The company, based in the Netherlands, was co-founded by CEO Michiel Allessie, a dentist who conducted research on bruxism (tooth grinding) before launching the start-up venture.

The sequencing of the human genome holds promise for a range of medical functions, from disease prevention to custom drug delivery.

Mountain View, Calif.-based personal genetics company 23andMe was founded in 2006, shortly after the Human Genome Project completed its 13-year effort to sequence the human genome. Its Personal Genome Service, which tests saliva samples, allows users to access, understand and benefit from that research.

In April, the company said the Food and Drug Administration granted the company the first authorization to market genetic reports on personal risk for certain diseases. The authorization includes reports on genetic risk for 10 conditions, including late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, celiac disease, hereditary thrombophilia (blood clots) and others. “This is an important moment for people who want to know their genetic health risks and be more proactive about their health,” said Anne Wojcicki, 23andMe’s CEO and cofounder.

Austin, Texas-based UnaliWear has developed a speech-driven smartwatch that provides a range of medical alert services for the user.

The Kanega watch — named after the Cherokee word for “speak” — is designed to detect falls, provide medication reminders and guard against wandering. The technology includes machine-learning capabilities so that the watch can detect deviations from the wearer’s normal lifestyle. It combines continuous speech recognition, cellular service, GPS, Wi-Fi and BLE, or bluetooth low energy, technologies, and an accelerometer for fall detection. The watch is currently available for pre-order.

The company was founded by CEO Jean Anne Booth, who previously founded two technology start-ups that were acquired by Texas Instruments and Apple. Marc DeVinney, co-founder and chief technology officer, previously developed a location-based device to protect autistic children and a cloud-based system to help protect seniors in long-term care facilities. The third co-founder, Brian Kircher, senior member of the technical staff, also has a background in technology.


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Leverage new opportunities or risk ‘death blow’

BY Julie Ritzer Ross

Steve Laughlin, IBM VP/GM of global consumer distribution

“The last best experience anyone has anywhere becomes their expectation everywhere,” and the retail experience is no exception. That was the message conveyed by Steve Laughlin, VP and general manager of global consumer industry at IBM, in his CVS Health Innovation Summit presentation.

Laughlin noted that heightened consumer expectations, coupled with increased efforts by manufacturers and distributors to adopt a “direct-to-consumer” sales model, should be compelling drug chains and other retailers to leverage new opportunities in their businesses — or prepare for a “death blow.” He outlined several building blocks for capitalizing on these opportunities.

Leveraging cognitive systems
The retail industry as a whole is doing a poor job of harnessing data for such competitive purposes as enhancing customer engagement, in part because so much of that data is unstructured and, consequently, difficult to analyze, according to Laughlin. Cognitive systems comprise a good solution here because they understand imagery, language and other unstructured data (e.g., comments on social media), as well as have the ability to reason, grasp underlying concepts, form hypotheses and extract and infer ideas. Additionally, such systems can learn; their expertise sharpens with each action, data point and outcome; and they can interact with humans in a natural way.

Applying artificial intelligence
Laughlin pointed to the example of “shopping bots,” such as the Macy’s on Call shopping bot piloted last year by the Macy’s department store chain and developed using IBM’s Watson artificial intelligence platform. To use these shopping bots, customers type questions pertaining to the general or specific product they seek (e.g., women’s dresses or a woman’s dress by a certain designer) and are directed to its exact location.

Re-imagining the store
This involves reducing the volume of inventory available in store (although not necessarily from an alternate location, such as a distribution center) and decreasing the amount of space devoted to merchandise. The objective, Laughlin explained, is to give retailers sufficient space to undertake initiatives associated with their mission. For drug stores, these initiatives might be centered on wellness, fitness and helping consumers live a healthier lifestyle.

In re-imagining their stores, Laughlin said retailers must bear in mind how consumers think. He cited a pilot program introduced by Target and Home Depot. Both retailers featured a display of teakwood patio furniture in their stores, but the products were unavailable there — only via two-day delivery.

The results were different, Laughlin said, because Target customers don’t typically think about buying patio furniture there, so the products were purchased on impulse and the wait for shipping was not a problem. Conversely, Home Depot customers might indeed consider the retailer’s stores a destination for patio furniture.

Individualizing the shopping experience
In an individualized shopping experience scenario, personality profiles derived from consumers’ shopping history and customer analytics are used to deliver unique product recommendations online and in store — for instance, through mobile offers delivered while a consumer is standing in a store aisle. Each click of a consumer’s mouse or action taken in a store sparks further personalization and recommendations.

Adopting hyperlocalization practices
These practices include using not only historical and other internal data, but also external data, to plan store locations, merchandise assortments and finalize merchandise allocations. Laughlin said one chain utilizes Watson to curate information on the behavior of individual stores’ competitors and adjusts its own activities, such as price adjustments, accordingly.

Engaging in ongoing experimentation
Keeping pace with disruptive forces in retail  necessitates a willingness to experiment with technology and data to interact with shoppers, building stronger relationships with them. Retailers need to deviate from their scripts and test different ways to engage customers. "Retailers need to act like the disruptors with which they’re competing,” Laughlin said. “It means moving quickly and, more important,” being willing to fail.


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