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Bakersfield College "Hackathon" Brings Health Advocates Together

Kerry Klein
Bakersfield College public health students Elizabeth Patterson (right) and Calleshia Gilliam (left) plan to address sexually transmitted diseases with their hackathon projects.

Today, Bakersfield College kicks off a new event to address health problems in the San Joaquin Valley--its first-ever public health “hackathon.”

Over 100 people from across Central California have signed up for the hackathon, which aims to use technology to address public health challenges like chronic disease, food insecurity and environmental health. Nurse and public health student Elizabeth Patterson says her project idea involves helping young adults mentor each other about sexually transmitted diseases.

"If we have some type of program that we have ambassadors that are between those age groups and come out and they’re talking to their peers about this, it makes it less stigmatized and less judgmental," Patterson says.

Public health professor Sarah Baron helped plan the event and she said the stakes here are real.

"Our hope is, after they pitch this, some of these ideas are going to probably be funded," Baron says. "We actually have some agencies that are coming to scout. They’re scouting for interns, they’re scouting for positions, and they’re scouting for ideas to replicate."

The 3-day event kicked off this morning.

Kerry Klein is an award-winning reporter whose coverage of public health, air pollution, drinking water access and wildfires in the San Joaquin Valley has been featured on NPR, KQED, Science Friday and Kaiser Health News. Her work has earned numerous regional Edward R. Murrow and Golden Mike Awards and has been recognized by the Association of Health Care Journalists and Society of Environmental Journalists. Her podcast Escape From Mammoth Pool was named a podcast “listeners couldn’t get enough of in 2021” by the radio aggregator NPR One.
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