a group of young people with smart phones
Karuk youth use iPods to interview community members about access to fruits and vegetables, views about their health and challenges to being healthy. Photo provided by Grant Gilkison.

The power of adapted technology to improve health in entire populations

"Could teenagers and their iPods make a community healthier? Youth from the Karuk Tribe and a professor from the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis teamed up to find out. What they discovered could benefit populations across the globe.

Katherine Kim, an assistant professor at the School of Nursing, recently concluded a three-year project that partnered with the Karuk youth in Northern California. Situated in the Klamath Basin in Humboldt and Siskiyou counties, the remote area presents an ecologically diverse ecosystem, yet the community’s access to nutritional foods is severely limited compared to other regions of the country. Through a multistate and multi-institutional project funded through a $5 million U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Security Grant, researchers aim to achieve a sustainable food system in the Klamath Basin that results in healthy communities and ecosystems among the Native American tribes who live there.

'Special populations, such as Native Americans, underserved or rural residents, don’t have access to health care delivered by people who understand their environment, culture or language. Technology has the power to bridge that divide where sometimes humans cannot,' Kim explained. 'We can quickly adapt mobile technologies and social networking applications to fit very specialized needs and meet user perspectives in order to solve problems.'

Kim, who earned her doctoral degree from the School of Nursing in 2014, led a team that trained Karuk youth to serve as researchers within their own community. Together, they developed a survey and learned how to use mobile tools to interview community members. Kim and her team gave youth the tools. The young people then chose in which direction to take the research."

Read the full story at UC Davis Health News

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