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USM Public Health Challenge

UPDATE: The USM COVID Research & Innovation Task Force announced the six winning teams for the USM Public Health Challenge on February 11, 2021. Click here to read the full press release announcing the winners.


The University System of Maryland (USM) COVID Research and Innovation Task Force is bringing together people, expertise, and resources from our 12 USM universities to rapidly advance solutions to challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. With the generous support of our sponsors—the Maryland Marketing Partnership (MMP); BioHealth Innovation (BHI); the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore (EAGB); the USM Foundation (USMF); Connected DMV; Baltimore Metropolitan Council; and the Maryland Technology Council (MTC)—the Task Force invites members of the USM community to take part in a multimedia, Public Health Challenge seeking creative submissions that highlight ways for USM students, members of the broader university community, and all Marylanders to stay safe and healthy.

Recent news highlighting positive results from large COVID-19 vaccine trials offers real hope for overcoming the coronavirus pandemic. However, there are still months to go before a vaccine will be widely available to the public, and there remains an ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths nationwide. It is critical that people and communities avoid “pandemic fatigue” and recommit themselves to sound public health practices.

We are seeking engaging and effective public health messaging that promotes continued vigilance and compliance with public health guidelines, while encouraging people to get vaccinated once they are able to do so. The competition is open to undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, staff, and alumni from USM institutions. Individuals and teams may apply. Submissions will be accepted in two categories:

  1. Live action or animated videos up to one minute in length
  2. A designed non-video social messaging campaign of at least three original digital images

All entries (video or images) should include at least three CDC-approved strategies for combating COVID-19 and incorporate messaging from the State of Maryland’s COVID-19 Vaccination Plan

The top three entries in each category will receive $3,000. Additionally, winning submission may be used by the sponsoring organizations, the partners, or the USM in a future public heath campaign. To apply:

  1. Create an original video or image package, making sure it complies with USM’s requirements (and for videos, the submission standards of YouTube and/or TikTok)
  2. Complete the entry form
  3. Sign the contest release form and the participant release form

Submissions will only be accepted via the USM COVID Task Force Web portal. No entries may be posted with public access; any entry posted with public access will be ineligible for the competition. Entries must be submitted no later than 9:00 a.m., Monday, January 25, 2021. Winners will be announced February 8, 2021. A collection of USM faculty, representatives of supporting sponsors and/or partners, and key members of the business community will review application and select winners.

Prizes will be awarded to the submissions that most effectively:

  • highlight the safety and efficacy of vaccines and the importance of getting vaccinated, especially for members of underrepresented communities;
  • convey the importance of following public health guidelines, including limiting exposure, face covering, physical distancing, sound hygiene, self-monitoring, and other strategies;
  • address the issue of “pandemic fatigue” in a creative, compelling, or humorous way; and
  • reach out to Marylanders, particularly young people and students.

Questions can be referred to

Before proceeding to the Entry Form, please read the Additional Rules and Requirement and Additional Terms and Conditions.

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