And the Winner is … Streetlights, for Applying Big Data to Community Health

Jan 15, 2014, 12:41 PM, Posted by Paul Tarini

Big data, the buzzword of choice these days in information technology, holds the promise of transforming health care as programmers and policy-makers figure out how to mine trillions of ones and zeros for information about the best (and worst) health practices, disease and lifestyle trends, interconnections, and insights. The problem is, where to start? To jump start the process, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation joined in a Knight News Challenge: Health and issued its own call to developers to come up with innovative ways to combine public health and health care data, with a $50,000 prize to the best idea.

The results are in. When the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced the winners of its News Challenge for ideas focused on unlocking the power of health data on January 15—you can see the list here—we also announced the winner of our companion prize for the best entries who combined public health data with data from health care to improve the health of communities. Our first place winner is the Streetlights Project from Chicago.

Streetlights brings together data from the Chicago Health Atlas, a website for displaying aggregate health-related information on a map so that people can see the prevalence of specific health conditions in their area and find out how they can improve their health; and HealtheRx, a website that connects people to resources to help them improve their health, manage disease, and live independently. The combined data will work as a shared and dynamic data resource for the public, and public health officials, independent of the health care system.

We set up the companion prize to award 2nd and 3rd place, but none of the other entries satisfied the criteria we set, demonstrating the scarcity of successful efforts to combine public health and health care data are.

In addition to the Knight Awards and our companion prize, the California Health Care Foundation also awarded a companion prize for Big Data on a Local Scale, that is, the best project to get health data into the hands of city and county officials—and spur them to use the information to improve people's lives. The winner of there was the Solutions Journalism Network. See more details here.

Congratulations to all the winners and all the entrants. I encourage folks to read through as many as you can to get a picture of the interesting work and creative thinking that’s going on in this space. And I offer a special thanks to the folks at Knight for taking this on and managing the challenge. They did a great job.