Seven projects win $2.2 million in Knight News Challenge: Health

technology / Article

Knight News Challenge: Health winners from Knight Foundation on Vimeo.

In August we launched the 10th Knight News Challenge asking the question, “How can we harness data and information for the health of communities?”  We received 686 entries when we ran the contest in September and chose the winners from 40 semifinalists. Overall, we felt this was the strongest field we’ve yet seen in the News Challenge.

This News Challenge was different for us. It marked the first time we dove into an unfamiliar topic. It was also the first time we collaborated with other foundations on the contest.  The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the California HealthCare Foundation helped us conceive the challenge, participated with us in our outreach campaign and each contributed money toward awards. The Health Data Consortium and the Clinton Foundation joined to help us evaluate proposals. All four organizations helped us organize our 21-city road tour, where we promoted the contest and listened to ideas. We learned a lot, and we’re grateful for their participation.

Here are some of the things we noticed while running the challenge:

  1. Mobile isn’t just a smaller Internet.  The ubiquity of mobile requires us to build products for people on a contextual basis: information where and when you need it. This is even more pronounced for health data -- as we saw firsthand at this weekend’s hackathon run by Tumblr, Jawbone and the Clinton Foundation.
  2. Thinking critically about data and privacy. Innovative projects are opening reams of new data to the public while simultaneously raising tough new questions about how to protect our privacy. In health, these challenges are deeply personal. How do we accommodate and address these tensions while still enabling experimentation and new ideas?
  3. From data to humans. Open data by itself isn’t sufficient to create change in our communities; we also need to explore how data can help people adopt healthy behaviors. How do we keep the focus on the human beings at the end of our pipeline, so we’re understanding and building for them? While many applicants were already thinking about this, we’d like to see more projects focused on this question in the future.

The seven winners of the Knight News Challenge Health listed below are now part of the larger community of News Challenge projects. We’ll begin the grants with human-centered design training at the Luma Institute next month.  In addition, we are funding eight early-stage projects from the pool of applicants through our Prototype Fund. (Look for more on the Prototype Fund next week, which is accepting applications through Jan. 31.)

Here are the seven winners, with projects totaling $2,248,000.  

  • Crisis Text Line from, $350,000: providing youth with free crisis counseling via text messaging, including intervention and live referral services from trained counselors.
  • Ohana API from Code for America, $210,000: 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.
  • SafeUseNow from Principled Strategies, $208,000: using data to identify incidents of prescription drug abuse by tracking combinations of prescribers, patients and pharmacies that may be contributing to the problem.

Thanks to everyone who helped with the News Challenge, including those who wrote about health data for Knight Blog and to all of those who helped us review applications. And a special thanks to Raina Kumra, who was instrumental in helping put this contest together.

In March, we’ll announce the theme for the next News Challenge.

John Bracken, director of journalism and media innovation, and Chris Sopher, journalism program associate, at Knight Foundation

Related links: "Leveraging digital platforms for health" by Elizabeth R. Miller on, "Positive solutions to local health problems" by Andy Krackov on and "Highlighting the runners-up in Knight News Challenge: Health" by Chris Sopher and John Bracken on

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