Reinventing the Health Beat: International Trade, Urban Violence and Community Well-Being

Published on
June 22, 2010

In a little more than two weeks, we will launch our 2010 National Health Journalism Fellowships. Of course, we hope and expect that the talented journalists who participate will produce great stories. But we will know this program has succeeded if it prompts participants to challenge conventional notions of what constitutes a health story. Seminar speakers will touch upon topics as varied as international trade and gang violence. But running through the Fellowships' weeklong extended conversation is a common theme: the links between Place and Health.

Mary M. Lee, associate director of PolicyLink, will lay the groundwork, with perspectives on how historic patterns of discrimination can eventually lead to the creation of neighborhoods starved of opportunity and access to healthy food. Then we will hear from Suzanne Bohan and Sandy Kleffman, reporters whose project on these themes, Shortened Lives: Where You Live Matters, just won a White House Correspondents' Association Edgar A. Poe award.

John A. Rich, M.D., M.P.H. is a doctor who believes in the power of narrative as a way to come to grips with violence in the lives of young black men. Homicide is the leading cause of death for young black men otherwise at the peak of health. A MacArthur "Genius" award-winner who helped to found Drexel University's Center for Nonviolence and Social Justice, Rich spent time simply listening to victims and perpetrators of gang violence in order to figure out how to treat them. "How do we understand those men and the complexity of their lives as human beings?" he asked Charlie Rose after winning the MacArthur award, "By gathering their narratives." Rich, our keynote speaker, believes that "the human problem of trauma is at the basis of what we typically call crime."

Wrong Place, Wrong Time

Image removed.Rich, author of Wrong Place, Wrong Time: Trauma and Violence in the Lives of Young Black Men, will help set the stage for a day-long conversation, about youth violence,strategies to prevent it, strategies to report on it, as well as the impact of violence on the health of entire communities. The fellows will visit Homeboy Industries, which offers one approach to gang violence prevention. They will also hear from Olis Simmons, executive director of Project Youth Uprising and Stan Bosch a priest whose Compton ministry evolved into a major gang intervention program. Patrick Boyle, who has delved into these issues for years as editor of Youth Today, will provide a journalist's perspective.

Next, we hop aboard for a custom voyage of the Urban Ocean: World Port and Sealife Cruise hosted by the Aquarium of the Pacific. The "cruise" features the gritty urban landscape of the busiest port in the country. We also will hear from key thinkers who have studied, regulated, managed and challenged the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles as they launch historic air-quality improvements. In a discussion led by Journalist Deborah Schoch, we will learn about the economic and community health impacts of the goods movement industry (trucking and shipping).

Online Story Telling

Then, there's the learning about new ways to tell all these stories online, from a Google mapping seminar taught by two pros to a talk by Deborah Estrin, the director of a UCLA think tank which has come up with unique ways to involve community members in mapping conditions where they live and work. We will be live blogging the seminars on our Fellowships blog starting July 11.

Share Your Stories on These Topics

Please share with ReportingonHealth the stories and blog posts you have created or that you like about air quality, industry and health and/or on urban violence. Here's a fine story that's hot off the presses by fellow Bernice Yeung to get us started. It's about an Oakland, CA program that helps ex-cons re-integrate into society.