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The California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships program awards $57,750 in reporting grants

The California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships program awards $57,750 in reporting grants

Picture of Michelle Levander

This year, we had an excess of riches as we poured through the applications for our July Fellowship programs. Journalist after journalist shared their passion and smarts with us as they proposed projects about health in local communities across the country. It was inspiring, humbling and very difficult to chose the 23 fellows who will participate in our July 22-July 26 program of seminars, field trips and conversations about health and health journalism. We will be live blogging about the fellowships here, so please follow along on Reporting on Health, on our Twitter feed or at #NHJF12.

Highlights of our week together include:

  • A keynote address on July 22 with Gregory Warner, until recently a senior reporter for American Public Media’s Marketplace show. He will share some of the storytelling innovations that have made him one of the most creative reporters on the health beat, including the use of video cartoons.
  • Policy analysts, journalists, and doctors on the front line will explain what the Supreme Court’s decision on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act will mean for the future of health care reform.  The first panel will feature Larry Levitt, executive director for the Kaiser Initiative on Health Reform and Private Insurance; Sarah Kliff, a health reporter for The Washington Post; and Martha King, health program group director for the National Conference of State Legislatures.  A second panel will feature Mary Agnes Carey, a veteran reporter for Kaiser Health News; Dr. Marcia Sablan, a longtime primary care physician in Fresno County; and Dr. Ken Kim, medical officer of CareMore Medical Enterprise and a pioneer in the treatment of people with chronic diseases, discussing what challenges health care will face after the dust has settled over the decision.  
  • Los Angeles and Long Beach regularly turn up on lists of the most polluted cities in the United States, and one of the reasons is the air pollution generated by the movement of goods from their huge ports to points inland. Fellows will hear about the health effects of air pollution and efforts to mitigate it from a panel that includes S. David Freeman, former president of the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners; Edward Avol, deputy director of the Children’s Health Study; Robert Kanter, managing director of environmental affairs & planning for the Port of Long Beach and Kari Lydersen, a freelance journalist who has written extensively about the issue. Afterwards, fellows will take a harbor tour of the ports and a bus tour of Wilmington, a nearby community that is impacted by port-related traffic.

  • Pioneering reporters and news teams have come up with novel approaches to ensure that an investigative or explanatory project has impact, engaging in outreach activities and collaborations to engage with the community and make sure that policymakers take notice of their work.  2011 National Fellow Kate Long of the Charleston Gazette will share her paper’s strategy of building “sustained outrage” over West Virginia’s high obesity rate, the topic of her 2011 National Fellowship project.  Emily Miller, policy and government affairs coordinator for the Chicago-based Better Government Association, will talk about what she does to make sure that BGA’s investigative journalism results in more effective public policies.
  • Is sugar the primary culprit behind the nation’s obesity epidemic?  Even as the nation’s obesity and diabetes rates soar, researchers are divided on the cause. But some think that sugar’s empty calories warrant regulatory actions such as New York City’s imminent ban on supersized soft drinks.  Fellows will hear from one of the most outspoken researchers on sugar, Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist at the UCSF School of Medicine; as well as Melissa Musiker, a nutritionist who is a spokesperson for the beverage industry. Maureen O’Hagan, a Seattle Times reporter whose 2010 National Fellowship project on efforts to combat obesity recently won a prestigious James Beard Award will round out the panel. 
  • In a second session on the issue, Duff Wilson, an investigative reporter for Reuters, will talk about the influence of lobbyists and campaign contributions on Congress as it weighed various proposals over the last few years to reduce sugar, salt and fat in food marketed to children, which he and a colleague detailed in a special report earlier this year.

Meantime, I'm delighted to share our official Annenberg press release about our new class of fellows.

USC Annenberg awards health journalism grants of $57,750

LOS ANGELES, CA. July 18, 2012 -- The USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism today announced journalism awards totaling $57,750 to support investigative and explanatory reporting projects. The topics to be covered range from the causes and consequences of America’s childhood obesity epidemic to the health impacts of environmental pollutants on low-income communities.

More than 80 journalists nationwide competed this year for 22 reporting grants from the Dennis A. Hunt Fund for Health Journalism, the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health Journalism Fund and The National Health Journalism Fellowships

All 22 journalists participate in USC Annenberg’s California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships program, a series of seminars, workshops and a field trip that is held July 22-26. Since 2005, the Health Journalism Fellowships program has educated more than 500 journalists on the craft and content of health journalism.

Among the investigative and explanatory topics the fellows will explore are the roles played by community health clinics in a changing health care landscape; the looming debate over the benefits insurers will be required to provide for chronically ill and disabled children; the health risks of pesticide exposure; how the urban environment affects good health; the reasons for cancer disparities in a community in Virginia; and barriers to accessing mental health care in Montana.

Past Fellowship projects can be found here

USC Annenberg’s four 2012 Dennis A. Hunt grantees will receive grants ranging from $2,550 to $8,000 to fund ambitious yearlong reporting projects.

The Hunt fund honors the legacy of Dennis A. Hunt, a visionary communication leader at The California Endowment who was dedicated to improving and supporting high-quality reporting on the health of communities. Hunt died in a car crash in 2007. Friends and colleagues, the Hunt family and The California Endowment joined together to create and provide ongoing support for the Fund.

“Through these innovative projects, we'll develop a deeper understanding about how health happens where we live, work and play -- not just in a doctor's office,” said Mary Lou Fulton, senior program manager for media for The California Endowment.  “Dennis Hunt was a champion of this idea, and his legacy lives on through the Hunt grants. They support journalism focused on the community health issues that were so important to him."

Two California journalists will receive grants from the new Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health Journalism Fund, which the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health established at USC Annenberg to encourage reporting on children’s health and critical health care policy issues in California. The foundation, based in Palo Alto, strives to elevate awareness of children's health and increase the quality and accessibility of children's health care.

“We welcome the opportunity to highlight the real-world effects of health care policy on children and their families, particularly children who are living with complex, chronic conditions,” said David Alexander, M.D., the foundation’s president and CEO. “Our hope is that these stories will generate public interest in developing a health care system that supports families and allows all children to reach their highest health potential.”

Other journalists participating in the National Fellowship will receive grants of $2,000 to support projects on pressing health issues in their communities.

Michelle Levander, director of the USC Annenberg/California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships, which hosts the Hunt, Lucile Packard and National journalism programs, said, “The health issues that  our fellows will tackle cry out for journalistic attention. Our fellows will bring to light environmental justice issues that have been neglected, policy decisions that contribute to ill health in local communities and ways that communities are tackling chronic ills.”

The National Health Journalism Fellowships program is funded with a generous grant from The California Endowment, whose mission is to expand access to affordable, quality health care for underserved individuals and communities and to promote fundamental improvements in the health status of all Californians. The Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health is funding the program’s new children’s health reporting grants, and family, friends and The California Endowment provide ongoing support to the Dennis A. Hunt Fund for Health Journalism.

Here are the 2012 Grantees and their projects:

Dennis A. Hunt Fund for Health Journalism Grantees

Heather Boerner, a Bay Area-based freelance health journalist and editor, will receive $4,500 to report for National Nurse, a union magazine, on the impacts of immigration status on health, including health disparities, workplace health hazards and access to health care.

Taunya English, the senior writer on the health and science desk for WHYY public radio in eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware, will receive $2,550 to undertake a multimedia and mapping exploration of efforts to improve health by overhauling the places where people work, play and live.

Burt Hubbard, editorial director of I-News, a Denver-based online news site, will receive $5,700 to examine the demographics behind the increase in Colorado’s childhood obesity rate and the implications for the state, as well as how school districts are dealing with it.

Steve Wilmsen, enterprise editor of The Boston Globe, will receive $8,000 to help underwrite a yearlong effort by a team of reporters to understand the roots of violence in an inner city Boston neighborhood, despite decades of effort to curb it.

Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health Journalism Fund

Elaine Korry, a Bay Area-based freelance reporter, will receive $4,000 to report for The California Report, a show produced by KQED, onthe package of essential health benefits that will determine children’s health care coverage in California under the Affordable Care Act.

David Danelski, a reporter for The Press-Enterprise in Riverside, will receive $3,000 to probe how Inland Southern California's increasing truck and train traffic affects children's health and the ongoing costs of air pollution-related harm to children.

National Health Journalism Fellows

(each receives $2,000)

Ana Elena Azpurua, a multimedia reporter with Al Día, a Spanish-language newspaper published by The Dallas Morning News, will report on three stories of particular interest to Latinos in North Texas: the impact of Mexico’s war on drugs on the mental health of Mexican Americans; the relationship between teen motherhood and child maltreatment and neglect; and challenges faced by Latino families with autistic children.

Cara DeGette, managing editor of Colorado Public News, will report on the health impacts of pollution on low-income populations.

Andrew Doughman, a reporter for the Herald-Journal in Spartanburg, South Carolina, will report on a citywide effort to improve one of the blighted neighborhoods in Spartanburg, a mid-sized, Southern city saddled with generational poverty.

Sergio Flores, a reporter and backup anchor for Univision 19 in Sacramento, will look into the risks faced by farm workers and their families from exposure to pesticides.

Anna Gorman, a staff writer at the Los Angeles Times, will report on community health centers and their role in the healthcare overhaul.

Amy Jeter, a health reporter for The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Virginia, will investigate why one urban city in her readership area has some of the highest cancer mortality rates in the state.

Valerie Lego, the health reporter for WZZM (ABC) in Grand Rapids, Michigan, will look at the impact of the nation’s worst agricultural disaster on health.

Katy Murphy, an education reporter for the Oakland Tribune and Bay Area News Group, will share a grant with Allison Yin, a freelance photographer, to examine the disproportionate impact of asthma on low-income, African-American children, and the strain it places on families and schools.

Carlos Javier Ortiz, a freelance photographer in Chicago,will document the impact of violence on young people in Chicago for The Chicago Reporter and a website,

Erica Peterson, the environment reporter for WFPL, the public radio affiliate in Louisville, Kentucky, will examine the health effects of industrial pollution on residents in two Louisville neighborhoods.

Tammie Smith, a reporter for the Richmond Times-Dispatch,will report on the importance of place to health status in Richmond, a city with some of the most dismal health outcomes in Virginia.

Cindy Uken, the health reporter at the Billings Gazette, Montana’s largest newspaper, will examine the impact of the dire shortage of psychiatrists in Montana, which is mostly rural.

Laura Ungar, the health reporter for The Courier-Journal in Louisville, will explore barriers to treatment in Kentucky for prescription drug addicts.

David Wahlberg, the health reporter at the Wisconsin State Journal, will analyze Wisconsin’s system for disciplining doctors.

Tom Wilemon, a health reporter for The Tennessean in Nashville, will explore diabetes and hypertension issues.

Stephanie Woodard, a freelance reporter, will examine a children’s health issue in two Northern Plains communities and one Alaskan village for Indian Country Today and

Alison Yin, a freelance photographer and multimedia journalist in Oakland, will share a grant with Katy Murphy, a reporter for the Oakland Tribune, to explore the disproportionate impact of asthma on low-income, African-American children, and the strain it places on families and schools.

Image by Darcy Gill via Flickr


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