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Systematic review of innovation design contests for health: spurring innovation and mass engagement
  1. Stephen W Pan1,
  2. Gabriella Stein2,
  3. Barry Bayus3,
  4. Weiming Tang1,
  5. Allison Mathews4,
  6. Cheng Wang5,
  7. Chongyi Wei6,
  8. Joseph D Tucker1
  1. 1Social Entrepreneurship for Sexual Health, University of North Carolina Project-China Office, Guangzhou, China
  2. 2College of Arts and Sciences, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
  3. 3Kenan-Flagler Business School, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
  4. 4Institute for Global Health and Infectious Disease, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
  5. 5Guangdong Provincial Center for STI & Skin Diseases Control, Guangzhou, China
  6. 6Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Global Health, University of California, San Francisco, California, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr. Stephen W Pan; stephen.w.pan{at}


We undertook a systematic review evaluating the effectiveness and cost of health-focused innovation design contests. We followed Cochrane guidance and systematically searched eight databases. Articles were included if they reported an open contest focused on improving health, required participants submit finished design solutions and contained a prize structure. We searched 3579 citations, identifying 29 health-focused innovation design contests which collectively received 15494 contest submissions. Contests solicited submissions worldwide (7) and exclusively from North America (13), Asia (4), Africa (2), Australia (2) and Europe (1). Submissions per contest ranged from 3 to 11354 (median of 73). Contest entrants were tasked with helping develop health promotion messages (HPM) (25) and improve predictive clinical models, protocols and/or algorithms (4). Two types of contests emerged—those focused on high-quality, innovative outcomes and those focused on the process of mass community engagement. All outcome-oriented contests had innovation design contest solutions equivalent or superior to the comparator (100%; 7/7). Two of two studies found that innovation design contests saved money (100%; 2/2). Five of seven process-oriented contests concluded the contest improved at least one health indicator (71%; 5/7). Innovation design contests are an effective way to solicit innovative solutions to health problems and spur mass community engagement.

  • crowdsourcing
  • prize
  • challenge

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  • SWP and GS contributed equally.

  • Handling editor Balram Bhargava

  • Contributors JDT conceptualised the study. SWP, GS and JDT drafted the manuscript and provided substantial contribution to data acquisition and data interpretation. BB, WT, AM, C Wang and C Wei provided substantial contribution to the interpretation of data and revising the letter for important intellectual content. All authors approved the final version of the manuscript to be published and accept accountability for all aspects of the letter.

  • Funding This study was supported by the National Institutes of Health Fogarty International Center (R25TW009340).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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