In December 2020, junior biological sciences major and McCollough Pre-Medical Scholar Kyle Boden heard that a new vaccine was becoming available to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic. He, like many others around the country, was excited by the prospect. But this was quickly dampened by the spread of misinformation, which ran rampant on social media. Boden knew he had to do something.
Boden, who hails from Santa Clara, California, and his friend, Crystal Tao, who is now a physician assistant student at University of the Pacific, created the Public Health Enhancement Project, or PHEP, as a way to combat misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic. The volunteer-based organization strives to bring awareness to issues surrounding public health and education through videos.
“Crystal and I believed that the ambiguity around the choice to receive the new COVID-19 vaccine is due to a variety of factors, with misinformation and lack of understanding about vaccines being a major contributor,” said Boden. “Given this, we wanted to provide an easily accessible and accurate source of information to help our communities gain a stronger understanding of the science driving the pandemic without pushing any particular agenda.”
With the help of students, teachers, and healthcare professionals, Boden and Tao created their video series, which was then adopted into Santa Clara County’s training program. Through this, they reached 25 school districts and over 300,000 students and staff, further than Boden and the PHEP team ever anticipated.
Because of their work combating misinformation, PHEP received second place for the 2021 Project of the Year by the Civic Leadership Academy, a national organization that highlights students and civically-engaged organizations.
“Our team, especially our student leaders, felt very validated by this win,” Boden said. “It was amazing to know that the efforts of our small, growing team were valued. While the award was a positive affirmation, we are also motivated to continue working and moving towards our next project.”
In the future, the team hopes to continue creating content for educators, and wants to collaborate with field experts and healthcare professionals to provide videos and potentially interactive content on a wide range of public health topics.
To learn more about PHEP and to watch the team’s award-winning videos, visit their website.