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Houston Food Bank seeks volunteers for coronavirus quarantine kits

The Food Bank needs help packing quarantine food kits. Photo courtesy of Houston Food Bank

As the long lines at any local Costco suggest, the coronavirus/COVID 19 phenomenon has caused some to interpret news reports advising sensible precautions such as "wash your hands thoroughly" to mean "buy a car-full of toilet paper."

Talk of a potential quarantine has only added to the fervor, as citizens are advised to stock up on food for up to two weeks. But what of those who can't don masks and charge through sprawling stores looking for tuna packets?

The Houston Food Bank is asking that local residents assist those who do not have reserves of food in the event of service disruptions and closures. The non-profit has put out a call for volunteers to help pack essential quarantine food kits. The boxes are not yet being requested, but will be necessary in the event there is a need due to COVID-19 occurrences in their service area, according to the Food Bank.

"Hundreds of thousands of people are counting on the organization and its partners now, and this need will only heighten if the COVID-19 situation worsens," says Brian Greene, president/CEO of Houston Food Bank.

Volunteers can sign up for shifts online to help pack these boxes at the Food Bank, 535 Portwall St. Volunteer shifts run from 8 am to noon Monday–Saturday, from 6 pm to 9 pm Monday–Friday, and from 9 am to noon Sunday.

To quell any obvious concerns about safety, the Food Bank has increased the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting, especially around high-traffic areas, such as volunteer areas, elevators, meeting rooms, bathrooms, food areas.

Greene also notes that volunteers can bring much-needed items to donate and pack. The Food Bank's most-needed items include:

  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Peanut butter
  • Canned protein
  • Soups
  • Jelly
  • Nutritious snacks
  • Canned Vegetable
  • Canned fruit
  • Hygiene items
  • Cleaning supplies: paper towels, disinfectant, bleach wipes
  • Bottled water

And, says Greene, "a little something sweet like cookies never hurt."

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Koda Health, Houston, uses AI to help guide difficult conversations in health care, starting with end-of-life care planning. Image via kodahealthcare.com

A new Houston-based digital advanced care planning company is streamlining some of the most difficult conversations in the health care industry around palliative care.

Founded by Tatiana Fafanova, Dr. Desh Mohan, and Katelin Cherry, Koda Health uses AI to help patients create advance medical care directives and documents—such as a living will—through an easy to use web-based interface.

Koda Health uses a conversational platform where users can enter information about their values, living situations, quality of life wishes, and more while learning about different care options at their own speed. It also uses a proprietary machine learning approach that personalizes audio-video guided dialogue based on the patient's individual and cultural preferences.

The app then autogenerates legal and medical documents, which patients can notarize or electronically witness the forms through the app or on their own.

According to Fafanova, who earned her PhD in in Molecular Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and now acts as the company's CEO, what historically has been a time consuming and expensive process, through Koda Health, takes an average of 17 minutes and is completely free of charge to the end user.

"We hope to reduce any outstanding barriers to access that might exist," Fafanova says. "It is very frequently the oldest and the poorest that are the highest utilizers of health care that don't have access to these solutions."

The app is also projected to save health care systems roughly $9,500 per patient per year, as it allows for hospitals and organizations to better plan for what their patient population is seeking in end-of-life-care.

The B2B platform was born out of the TMC's Biodesign Fellowship, which tasked Koda's founding members with finding solutions to issues surrounding geriatric care in the medical center. In March 2020, Koda incorporated. Not long after ICU beds began to fill with COVID-19 patients, "galvanizing" the team's mission, Fafanova says.

"It was no longer this conceptual thing that we needed to address and write a report on. Now it was that people were winding up in the hospital at alarming rates and none of those individuals had advanced care planning in place," she says.

After accelerating the development of the product, Koda Health is now being used by health care systems in Houston, Texas, and Virginia.

The company recently received a Phase I grant of $256,000 from the National Science Foundation, which will allow Koda to deploy the platform at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist and test it against phone conversations with 900 patients. Fafanova says the company will also use the funds to continue to develop personalization algorithms to improve Kona's interface for users.

"We want to make this a platform that mimics a high quality conversation," she says.

After Koda completes the Phase I pilot program it will then be eligible to apply for a Phase II award of up to $1 million in about a year.

Koda Health was founded by Tatiana Fafanova, Dr. Desh Mohan, and Katelin Cherry. Photos via kodahealthcare.com

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