SOMERSET — A team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) will facilitate the first-ever Appalachian Health Hack-a-thon at the Center for Rural Development in Somerset Oct. 6-8.
A hack-a-thon convenes 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.
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) is bringing the program to Kentucky, which is the first time MIT has held a hack-a-thon in Appalachia.
“Appalachian Kentucky faces many challenges, but bringing communities together to create innovative solutions is the key,” said Jared Arnett, executive director of SOAR.
“SOAR is seeking the brightest minds — from health to business and entrepreneurs, techies, innovators and engineers to social workers, patients and students. Participants will implement this challenge-solving technique, which is used by the technology industry and companies like Google.”
The event is free, but participants should register as soon as possible at www.soar-ky.org/hackathon because space is limited.
“Problems related to the poor overall health in Appalachia, especially in the SOAR focus areas of obesity, diabetes and substance abuse, are impacting our communities in a major way,” said Dr. William Hacker, chair of the SOAR Community Health and Wellness Advisory Council. “We want to improve health metrics, reduce the incidence of chronic disease and begin to turn the tide on the consequences of the massive substance abuse epidemic we are in the middle of right now.”
In addition to creating an opportunity for participants to create action-based solutions that bridge the gap between health, entrepreneurship and economic development, participants will also bring this way of thinking and problem-solving back to their communities and organizations.
“The hack-a-thon is a great opportunity for us to tap into the ingenuity of our best and brightest minds as we energize a movement to find innovative solutions to the health disparities that have plagued our Appalachian region for generations,” said Congressman Hal Rogers, Co-Founder and Co-Chair of SOAR. “I’m eager to see the winning ideas and to witness our local talent on display.”
The Appalachian Health Hack-a-thon will kick off at 6 p.m. on Oct. 6 with a reception at the Center for Rural Development. Keynote speakers include Rogers; Dr. Doug Lowy, director of the National Cancer Institute; and Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
The reception also will include an official IGNITE event, which will allow up to eight presenters to deliver high-powered five-minute presentations that are meant to enlighten and inspire participants.
“We applaud SOAR for bringing entrepreneurs, technology gurus and health experts together to develop innovative solutions that address our Appalachian region’s biggest health challenges,” Gov. Matt Bevin said. “This is the type of cutting edge thinking we need to help deliver better health outcomes for all Kentuckians.”
The hack-a-thon will start at 8 a.m. on Oct. 7. It will be facilitated by MIT, and 150 people from across eastern Kentucky will have the opportunity to participate, free of charge. They will work within small teams to tackle substance abuse and obesity/diabetes — from problem to solution.
The event will end on Saturday afternoon, as teams present their solutions to a panel of judges. Participants will have the chance to win most innovative solution in two tracks – obesity/diabetes and substance abuse. Prizes include up to $1,500 in cash, recognition and the potential to work with business incubators and accelerators.