SOMERSET, Ky. – The first-ever Appalachian Health Hack-a-thon concluded Saturday at the Center for Rural Development in Somerset, Ky., with an announcement of the winners in various categories.
Nineteen teams, including six student teams, presented their solutions to a panel of judges. Prizes include up to $1,500 in cash, recognition and the potential to work with business incubators and accelerators. Awards went to the most innovative solutions in:
• First place, Simple Health (555), a student group from Pikeville, would create the 5-5-5 app, which would encourage participants to live healthier lifestyles by drinking five glasses of water per day, eat five servings of fruits and vegetables, and walk for five minutes five times per day. People could join a random group or create a group of their friends and family;
• Second place, Nobesity, which would address a lack of access to out-of-clinic preventive care by providing online, onsite wellness. It would include nutrition/health information, physical activity, screening/tracking starting with a pilot project in Bell County; and
• Third place, Streek (Students That Run Earn Extra Kash) would create an app rewards system to get students to become more active. It would target students in grades 3-12.
• First place, Holler Exchange would provide a mail-in needle exchange to combat the spread of hepatitis C and HIV transmission. Participants first would have to go through education and have a buddy to be responsible for turning in the needles. Ongoing telehealth conferences also would be required;
• Second place, ODX Naloxone delivery would create an app to connect providers and volunteers to people who are experiencing a drug overdose. At the time of a suspected overdose, an alert would be sent out to the nearest responders who then would indicate that they would respond. It would be similar to Uber for Naloxone;
• Third place, Nalox Box, would create a box that sends a signal via NOAA satellite when opened to notify emergency personnel of a potential overdose. There also would be a simple way for children to give Naloxone to their parents.
• WellCare Student Winner Category: Oasis (Overcoming Abusive Substances by Interacting Socially), a student group from Paintsville, proposed an app that would create a licensed, professional chat room that must be used before people can get a prescription for pain medicine. It also would create social support. The team will receive $1,000.
• Pikeville Medical Center Challenge: Simple Health (555) team members won FitBits.
• Passport Health Plan Diabetes Challenge: Sugar Busters would increase pre-diabetic screenings by adding a checklist to Medicaid cards that include needed health screenings. An app would provide that information as well as incentives for scheduling those screenings. The team will receive $1,000.
• Passport Health Plan Substance Abuse Challenge: Oasis, which will receive $1,000.
• WellCare Challenge: Restart, a group of students from Pikeville, would create an app to help prevent substance abuse by providing other options for pain management and peer-to-peer interaction. The team will receive $500.
Team presentations were judged on overall health/wellness impact, innovation, business model and presentation.
“This first-ever hack-a-thon in Appalachia was a great success,” said Jared Arnett, executive director of SOAR, which convened the hack-a-thon. “Exciting opportunities for improved health and job creation were identified, and the impact will last well into the future by serving as a model for problem-solving throughout the commonwealth.”
A team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) facilitated the hack-a-thon, which convened 160 people with different backgrounds and expertise to form teams, collaborate within a limited timeframe and focus on a specific problem to create innovative, disruptive ideas and solutions. By bringing together diverse minds alike in their interest for solving health-care’s biggest challenges, problems can be diagnosed from multiple perspectives.
Hack-a-thon participants included students from Pikeville, Paintsville and Letcher County, who participated in the event virtually — working with their teachers, Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative staff, local subject matter experts and software developers from Pivotal, a technology company based in New York. Many of the students came to school during their fall break and even missed Homecoming festivities.
MIT’s Hacking Medicine program has held more than 40 events worldwide, helping to develop solutions to some of the toughest problems in medicine. Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) brought the program to Kentucky.
“The teams came such a long way,” said Sonia Xu, one of the MIT facilitators who is a clinical trials associate for a start-up company in Boston called JanaCare, which is focused on reversing diabetes. “We pushed them hard to think outside the box. This was a huge opportunity that teams really embraced. I hope they take this mindset back to their family and friends — the more people can tackle their own problems rather than accept things as the status quo.”
In addition to creating an opportunity for these 160 participants to develop action-based solutions that bridge the gap among health, entrepreneurship and economic development, they also will bring this type of problem-solving back to their communities and organizations.
“I didn’t know what to expect, but I was floored by the quality of presentations,” said Jack Kirn, a judge for the event who is lecturer at the University of Kentucky who is an entrepreneur and also has managed large and small privately held companies. “One of the best solutions came from a set of high school boys (Oasis). I hope this builds momentum to jump start moving forward. These are great ideas to build upon. When you add on and add on, that’s when you get big ideas.”
SOAR’s sponsors for the hack-a-thon were Community Trust Bank, Passport Health Plan, Lindsey Wilson College, Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital, Wellcare, Pikeville Medical Center, the University Of Pikeville College Of Osteopathic Medicine/A-Optic, Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and Ugly Mugz Coffee.