Skip to main content

Click here to sign up for the Nova Scotia Health Innovation Hub newsletter and never miss an update 

RBC Youth Health Innovation Challenge fosters creativity, action on youth mental healthcare

News and Updates RSS  
Four young people smile while ringing a bell with a piece of tartan at the Nova Scotia Health Innovation Hub.

By: Heide Pearson

From mobile apps to peer support models, and expanding on in-school resources for students, 18 amazing innovations were pitched by Nova Scotia young adults as part of the 2024 RBC Youth Health Innovation Challenge.

The challenge, championed by the Nova Scotia Health Innovation Hub in partnership with IGNITE Atlantic, Nova Scotia Health Mental Health and Addictions Program, IWK Health and Kids Help Phone, and with the generous support of RBC Foundation and the QEII Foundation, empowered young people in the province to develop mental healthcare solutions for themselves and their peers – no matter their background, no matter where they live. 

The Health Innovation Hub exists as a model for shifting our thinking on healthcare delivery and finding new ways to provide the right patient care in the right ways at the right time.

The RBC Youth Health Innovation Challenge was born out of that innovative drive and of the question: What could solutions created by youth, for youth, look like?

“It’s been so inspiring to see these teams of young, passionate innovators put their minds to work to solve one of the biggest challenges facing youth today,” said Margaret Palmeter, Senior Director of Innovation and Business Development at the Health Innovation Hub.

“We are always looking to tap into new ideas, new knowledge areas and new perspectives as we work to deliver more healthcare, faster. This challenge did just that, while bringing some of the brightest young minds in the province into the innovation space.”

“The team here at the Health Innovation Hub, alongside our partners, worked hard to foster a competition that was supportive, inclusive and psychologically safe, allowing the participants to ideate, innovate and get valuable feedback to carry with them in their innovation journey.”

Panels of judges and mentors from the mental health, entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystems were wowed by the ideas the young, creative minds came up with to better meet the unique mental health needs of Nova Scotia youth and young adults.

The winning innovation, an app called Sociable, aims to provide a safe source of connection, community and resources for students on post-secondary campuses in Nova Scotia. 

Aneesa Hussain, Munyaradzi Matura, Jason Phonchareon and Olivian Sanderson make up the team behind the innovation, which they aim to pilot at a small number of university campuses in fall 2024.

The team – who took home the $2,000 prize in the regional competition phase in New Glasgow – was awarded an additional $8,000, and will participate in a summer-long mentorship program with the Health Innovation Hub to further hone their idea.   

“The QEII Foundation, and our community of donors, including the RBC Foundation, are passionate about ensuring QEII patients have the best care available when they need it most,” said QEII Foundation President and CEO Susan Mullin.

“When we empower young people and actively involve them in finding solution-focused ideas on improving mental health supports, we get fresh, creative perspectives that can have life-changing impact.”

The positive impacts the RBC Youth Health Innovation Challenge had across the province are still being realized. Each innovation pitched throughout the competition was reviewed by a panel of mental health and healthcare ecosystem partners, including the Nova Scotia Health Innovation Hub, Nova Scotia Health Mental Health and Addictions Program, IWK Health, QEII Foundation, Kids Help Phone and IGNITE Atlantic.  

Leaders examined each idea to assess whether they could be developed further – all in the interest of providing the right care to the right patients in the right ways.

“We know the important role that mental health and well-being plays in a young person’s success,” said Chris Ronald, Regional President, Atlantic Provinces, RBC.

“Through the RBC Youth Health Innovation Challenge, we got to hear first-hand some of the proposed solutions youth feel can positively impact the lives of Nova Scotia youth. It was inspiring and motivating, and we can’t wait to see these ideas in action.”

Two innovations have already been identified by the Mental Health and Addictions Programs as solutions the department sees as potential additions to existing programming. Experts are working with those teams' members to explore ways to incorporate their ideas into mental healthcare delivery tools.  

As more teams benefit from mentorship opportunities with mental health and healthcare system partners, it’s expected the Youth Health Innovation Challenge will continue to break barriers in healthcare delivery and access for Nova Scotia young people.