Knight News Challenge awards $2.2 million for ideas that unlock the power of health data

Press Release

January 14, 2014


Related Links

Knight Blog: 
'Seven projects win $2.2 million in Knight News Challenge: Health' by Chris Sopher and John Bracken

"Leveraging digital platforms for health" by Elizabeth R. Miller 

"Positive solutions to local health problems" by Andy Krackov

"Highlighting the runners-up in Knight News Challenge: Health" by Chris Sopher and John Bracken

Contest Info:
NewsChallenge: Health

LA QUINTA, Calif. – (Jan. 14, 2014) – Seven projects that harness the power of data and information for the health of communities will receive more than $2 million as winners of the Knight News Challenge: Health.  The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation made the announcement at the Clinton Health Matters conference in La Quinta, Calif.

The winners underscore the power of data to drive change, focusing on the topic of health— an area essential to people’s lives. They provide data-driven solutions to issues from prescription drug abuse and youth crisis counseling, to better medical resource allocation and connecting communities with local health services. 

“By addressing the vital area of health each winner highlights the transformative impact that data, when used correctly, can have on communities,” said Michael Maness, Knight Foundation vice president of journalism and media innovation. “In this way, the projects tackle real-world problems while opening up opportunities for people to explore new ways to apply data — within the health sphere and beyond.”

Launched in August, the challenge was a collaboration between Knight and four major players in health: the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the California HealthCare Foundation, the Clinton Foundation and the Health Data Consortium.

The Knight News Challenge: Health asked innovators to present solutions that harness the power of data and information for the health of communities, with a strong focus on civic participation and solution building.

The winning projects include:

Camden Health Explorer from Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers: creating an interactive dashboard with real-time health care enrollment, cost and outcomes metrics to make the local health care system more efficient.

Crisis Text Line from providing youth with free crisis counseling via text messaging, including intervention and live referral services from trained counselors.

Homebrew Sensing Project from Public Laboratory: providing low-cost chemical analysis tools that allow residents to track hazardous chemicals in the environment and their health impacts.

Ohana API from Code for America: connecting the public with community resources through a centralized database that aggregates information on health, human and social services, so users can quickly access targeted information through search engines, smartphones or SMS.

Open Humans Network from developing an online portal to connect people who are willing to share their personal health information with researchers to advance medical breakthroughs.

Positive Deviance Journalism from Solutions Journalism Network: collaborating with newsrooms and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation to scan data sets for examples of positive health results that can lead to important stories.

SafeUseNow from Principled Strategies: using data to identify incidents of prescription drug abuse by tracking combinations of prescribers, patients and pharmacies that may be contributing to the problem.

Full project descriptions are below.

In addition to these News Challenge winners, two partners provided separate awards to applicants that addressed specific interest areas. California HealthCare Foundation awarded an additional $122,500 to Positive Deviance Journalism for its focus on using health data to impact local policymaking. And the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation awarded $50,000 to the Streetlights project for its application of public health data to improve the health of communities. The project contributes clinical data to the Chicago Health Atlas to help map health issues in Chicago neighborhoods, empowering residents and city officials to track health problems and make improvements. It also connects people with local resources to manage their conditions.

“Partnering with Knight on the News Challenge has been a great education for us on running a philanthropic challenge to get innovative ideas from a broad spectrum of individuals and organizations,” said Andy Krackov, senior program officer at California HealthCare Foundation. “We received numerous proposals for our related competition, ‘Big Data on a Local Scale.’ The winning entry from Solutions Journalism will supply valuable information to policymakers about successful approaches for solving health challenges that California communities regularly face.”

“Recently there has been an explosion of data from all sectors of health and health care, and our partnership with Knight Foundation gives us a unique opportunity to help foster innovative new uses for that data,” said Paul Tarini, senior program officer for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Pioneer Portfolio. “The Streetlights project is an excellent example of the synergies that can be created when public health and health care data for a community are combined, with the potential to drive real improvements in people's lives.”

Knight News Challenge: Health was the second round of the Knight News Challenge in 2013; in June Knight announced eight winners of the Open Gov round, which sought ideas to improve the way citizens and governments interact. Knight will announce the theme for the first round of 2014 soon.

The Knight News Challenge accelerates media innovation by funding breakthrough ideas in news and information. Since 2007 Knight Foundation has reviewed more than 15,000 applications and provided more than $37 million in funding to 111 projects.

In addition to funding, winners receive support from Knight’s network of influential peers and advisers to help advance their ideas.

Past News Challenge winners have created innovative solutions to community challenges that benefit citizens, journalists, civic leaders and policymakers. They include: DocumentCloud, which analyzes and annotates public documents, turning them into data; Tools for OpenStreetMap, which makes it easier to contribute to the editable map of the world; and Safecast, which helps people measure air quality and became the leading provider of pollution data following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

For more, visit and follow #newschallenge on Twitter.

Knight News Challenge Winners

Winner: Camden Health Explorer

  • Award: $450,000
  • Organization: Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers
  • Project leads: Jeffrey Brenner, Erek Dyskant and Aaron Truchil
  • Twitter: @CamdenHealth, @EDyskant, @ATruchil
  • Video:

In Camden, New Jersey, as in many U.S. cities, 1 percent of patients generate 30 percent of health care costs. Many of these patients arrive in emergency rooms seeking care for easily treatable or preventable conditions; they often face a fragmented, uncoordinated and expensive health care system. The Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers addresses this problem by sharing data between the city’s hospitals and providers to better target resources and proactively tackle patient health issues. The Camden Health Explorer is the next step in this effort. The open source tool, built in partnership with data firm BlueLabs, will aggregate anonymous individual health and medical claims data, then display and map the results by demography and geography. Camden Coalition staff will work with local stakeholders, including hospital administrators, providers and policymakers, to ensure the data make Camden’s health care system more efficient and ultimately make patients healthier. The dashboard will make the tool available to other communities.

Winner: Crisis Text Line

  • Award: $350,000
  • Organization:
  • Project Leads: Jennifer Chiou and Nancy Lublin
  • Twitter: @DoSomething, @jen_chiou, @NancyLublin
  • Video:

Crisis Text Line provides youth with free counseling via text messaging. Over its 5 month beta phase, it has helped teens in crisis with more than 14,000 text conversations. Created by, one of the largest organizations in the country for teens and social change, Crisis Text Line provides intervention and live referral services from trained counselors, reaching teens through a preferred means of communication: SMS. With challenge funding, Crisis Text Line will launch the service nationally and create a national, anonymous database about teens in crisis to inform further initiatives in this area.

Winner: Homebrew Sensing Project

  • Award: $350,000
  • Organization: Public Laboratory
  • Project Leads: Shannon Dosemagen, Jeffrey Warren, Mathew Lippincott
  • Twitter: @PublicLab, @SDosemagen, @headfullofair
  • Video:

People are increasingly concerned about exposure to of hazardous chemicals—from formaldehyde in building materials to fumes from industrial sites—and their long- and short-term health impacts. To address this problem, the Public Laboratory wants to provide more low-cost chemical analysis tools, including simple devices that can be plugged into smartphones and laptops, so residents can measure the effects themselves instead of relying on costly labs.  With its community of more than 3,500 active members, Public Lab raised $110,000 from more than 1,500 backers in 2012 with a Kickstarter campaign to use DIY spectrometry tools to identify petroleum in sediments in coastal Louisiana and monitor emissions from oil refineries, among other projects. Knight funding will allow the lab’s Homebrew Sensing Project to expand, improve its hardware and software, and connect with citizens to collect data that empowers communities.

Winner: Ohana API

  • Award: $210,000
  • Organization: Code for America
  • Project Leads: Sophia Parafina, Moncef Belyamani, Anselm Bradford
  • Twitter: @codeforamerica, @locatively, @monfresh, @anselmbradford
  • Video:

Launched in beta in San Mateo County, Calif., by a team of Code for America fellows, this open source tool connects citizens with community resources through one centralized database. Ohana helps people locate social services, displays them on a map and makes the results easily printable. This database unites information on health, human and social services that are often kept in separate silos, such as paying for food, finding affordable health care or connecting with a social worker. Exposing the data through a Web API, the tool allows users to quickly access targeted community information through applications such as search engines, smartphones, or SMS.

Winner: Open Humans Network

  1. Award: $500,000
  2. Organization:
  3. Project Leads: Jason Bobe and Madeleine Price Ball
  4. Twitter: @PGorg, @jasonbobe, @madprime
  5. Video:   

Patients today have greater access to their own medical records, but they are limited in their ability to share that information, which hinders the potential for advancing medical research.  To address these problems, the Open Humans Network will create an online portal to connect people willing to publicly share data about themselves with researchers. The portal will include three components: a personal page that will allow participants to set up their data profile; a public data explorer enabling people to use data compiled from participant profiles; and a set of design guidelines for researchers looking to use a collaborative data sharing model.

Winner: Positive Deviance Journalism

  • Award: $180,000
  • Organization: Solutions Journalism Network
  • Project Lead: Tina Rosenberg
  • Twitter: @soljourno, @tirosenberg
  • Video:

The Solutions Journalism Network seeks to broaden the role of journalism: it should not just uncover society’s ills, but also report on responses to those problems.  Founded by authors of the New York Times “Fixes” column, the Network works with newsrooms looking to include regular coverage of how communities, individuals and institutions address challenges and what society can learn from such efforts. Using this framework, the Solutions Journalism Network will collaborate with partner newsrooms and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation to scan data sets for “positive deviance” in the health sector— examples of promising health results that could lead to important stories.  For instance, a journalist working in a city that has been unable to help people increase their levels of physical activity could identify cities that have succeeded in doing this and report on how the gains were achieved. Solutions Journalism Network will coach newsrooms to identify, vet, develop and write these stories. 

Winner: SafeUseNow

  • Award: $208,000
  • Organization: Principled Strategies
  • Project Leads: Patrick Burns and Paul Dubose
  • Twitter: @SafeUseNow, @PJBatSUN
  • Video:

Since the 1990s, prescription drug abuse has significantly increased in the United States. However, a lack of actionable information about prescription drug abuse risk, despite the increase of state monitoring programs, makes it difficult to combat the problem. SafeUseNow℠ aims to reduce abuse by making prescribing safer and more effective. The tool uses data to identify combinations of prescribers, patients and pharmacies who may be contributing to the problem. This information helps pharmacies, insurance companies and other health care stakeholders educate prescribers to more effectively and safely treat patients. It also allows them to monitor prescribing patterns for changes in trends and behavior. A successful pilot with one health plan provider achieved a significant reduction in key risk factors. With Knight Foundation funding, the team will scale the project for use by Medicaid plans in California and aims to spread around the country.



CONTACT: Anusha Alikhan, Director of Communications, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, 305-908-2677, [email protected]

* Note: this release was updated Jan. 17. 2014 to add a reference to the Chicago Health Atlas