Winners announced after Appalachian Health Hack-a-thon

SOMERSET, Ky. (WYMT)- Dozens gathered at the Center for Rural Development on Friday for the first ever Appalachian Health Hack-a-thon.

It is presented by Shaping Our Appalachian Region or SOAR, and brings people together to work on finding solutions to health problems in the region.

A team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology facilitated the event.

Drug abuse, diabetes and obesity were just a few of the issues groups focused on.

"A lot of people don't understand how we can solve these," said Mackenzie Denton, a student at the Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine. "They're such big problems, there's really no solution."

Leaders said it's time to quit talking and time to take action.

"What we don't need is to discuss more health problems," said Dr. William Hacker, the Chair of the SOAR Community Health and Wellness Advisory Council. "We need to discuss more health solutions. And so the challenge is, how can we really tackle these health problems we have."

More than 100 people with various backgrounds were at the event and organizers said that combining different skills and mind sets creates new solutions.

"We've done it many times before and we've found that the interdisciplinary teams and this kind of shot gun approach, really jump starts the innovations process," said Shriya Srinivasan, a PhD student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

For Denton, the innovation process motivates her to expand her thought process.

"If you look at a problem and think 'wow, I'm just going to dwell on it and be disappointed in it' instead of thinking of solutions...that's the way you need to think," said Denton. "You need to think, there's a solution and I can have that solution. I might not be the one who comes up with it but I can help somebody who does."

The Hack-a-thon wrapped up Saturday night; awards went to the most innovative solutions in:


o 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;
o 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
o 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.

Substance Abuse:

o 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;
o 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;
o 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.

SOAR hopes to hold more Hack-a-thons in the future.

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