David Kansas is chief operating officer and head of content for American Public Media. Below, he writes about emerging opportunities for the media to use data to help the public make better health decisions. His post is part of our Knight News Challenge: Health series. The challenge, which offers $2.2 million in funding for ideas to help harness data and information for the health of communities, closes Tuesday, Sept. 17, at 5 p.m. ET. Photo credit: Flickr user Deb Nystrom. The Minnesota State Fair—like other similar events—typically is not synonymous with a healthy lifestyle. Deep-fried Twinkies, grease-gobbed cheese curds, giant turkey legs and sugary mini-doughnuts: That’s just a sampling of the fair fare! At Minnesota Public Radio, we wanted to inject some healthier notions into the state fair experience. RELATED LINKS "40 ideas advance in News Challenge: Health" "What's next in Knight News Challenge: Health" by Chris Sopher "Bring your best ideas; deadline nears for News Challenge: Health" by Chris Sopher "Knight News Challenge on Health opens for entries" "Knight News Challenge: Health opens with inspiration phase, additional prizes from collaborators" by Raina Kumra and John Bracken "Announcing key collaborators and details of Knight News Challenge: Health" by John Bracken and Chris Barr "Join us to brainstorm ideas around News Challenge: Health" and There's still time to brainstorm around News Challenge: Heath" by Chris Sopher "Data: Why we care" by Esther Dyson "News Challenge: Make APIs not apps, health CEO says" by Lucky Gunasekara "Data provides a focus for community action" by Bryan Sivak "Robert Wood Johnson Foundation announces new prize for News Challenge: Health" by Paul Tarini "California HealthCare Foundation: The data stops here" and "It takes a community to humanize health data" by Andy Krackov "How data-driven solutions can transform healthcare" by Lexie Komisar "Data essential to promoting healthy habits" by Nirav R. Shah Our first thought: how to use health data to help folks think about the food-on-the-stick emporium in different ways. Collaborating with HealthPartners, a local health insurance company, we distributed pedometers to fairgoers and launched a contest that would reward those who hoofed around the grounds more than others. As part of that effort, we talked to fairgoers about how understanding health data and information can help people make wiser health-related decisions, especially when it comes to fair food. This small step into the health arena is part of Healthy States, a company-wide initiative from American Public Media. The Healthy States project encompasses top-flight journalism at our news operations at Minnesota Public Radio News, Southern California Public Radio and Marketplace. It involves the non-news areas of our company as well. A big part of Healthy States involves health data—and there’s no shortage of such information. Our audiences often find themselves overwhelmed by health data and health choices. We want to play a role in “sense-making” and storytelling that will help our audiences better understand health data in ways that benefit them and their communities. Understanding health data can drive different kinds of stories. We are using our Public Insight Network, a collection of more than 200,000 sources across the country, to uncover meaningful anecdotal stories around health and intersecting that qualitative information with quantitative health data. In July, Minnesota Public Radio used the Public Insight Network to produce a data-driven series on mental health issues in Minnesota. This series used both the network and health data to provide a more complete, comprehensive picture of mental health in Minnesota and around the country. We also are using health data to drive conversations and convenings with our audiences. This fall, we will use that data to drive events that focus on hunger issues, millennials and health care, and women and health. Data alone doesn’t suffice. By intelligently interweaving data with stories, we can have a sharper impact on the communities we serve.