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2016 National Health Journalism Fellowship

Event Type: 
Date and Time: 
Sunday, July 17, 2016 - 5:00pm to Thursday, July 21, 2016 - 2:00pm
Program Description: 

Dates: July 17-21, 2016

Deadline: March 18, 2016

The 20 journalists accepted into the program will join us for an all-expenses-paid five-day program at our home base on the University of Southern California campus in Los Angeles, an international city that has been called a "proving ground" for a multicultural society. 

The 2016 program is designed for journalists who want to do groundbreaking reporting on vulnerable children and families and the community conditions that contribute to their well-being. Fellows will gain insights into the latest research on how a child’s lifetime development is affected by early experiences of trauma, including abuse, neglect, parental stress and community violence. Other workshops and discussions – with distinguished journalists, researchers, clinicians and community case workers -- will delve into the impact of poverty on children, including food insecurity, substandard housing and parents’ economic insecurity.

We also will explore the connections between health and place, or how neighborhood, work and home environments impact health, well-being and life expectancy. Journalists will learn about innovative prevention and clinical programs that suggest ways to address chronic ills.

Fellows will receive advice on engagement strategies that can help to maximize the impact of reporting. We challenge them to engage more deeply with the communities their news outlet serves. Each Fellow will receive a minimum grant of $2,000 and six months of mentoring by a senior journalist.

The 2016 National Fellowship is underwritten by generous grants from The Annie E. Casey Foundation and The California Endowment.

Click here for a list of the 2015 National Health Journalism Fellows and links to their reporting projects.

In conjunction with the National Fellowship, we administer two funds that underwrite specialized reporting and a third fund that underwrites community engagement efforts:

  • The Dennis A. Hunt Fund for Health Journalism is a competitive grants program that supports substantive reporting on community health issues in underserved communities. Each Huntgrantee participates in the National Fellowship and receives a $2,500 to $10,000 grant, instead of the National Fellowship’s $2,000 stipend, to support reporting on a community health topic. TheHunt Fund supports investigative and explanatory projects that will broaden the public's understanding of community health – examining how poverty, race, ethnicity, pollution, crime, and land-use and urban planning decisions influence the quality of life of residents as well as innovative ways to address these disparities. Past grantees have explored themes including environmental health; chronic disease and its disproportionate toll on certain communities; access to care for diverse communities; health reform innovations and challenges; and transportation challenges that interfere with prospects for good health. 
  • The Fund for Journalism on Child Well-Being supported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, underwrites substantive reporting on vulnerable children and families. Each grantee participates in the National Fellowship and receives a $2,500 to $10,000 grant, instead of the National Fellowship stipend, to support investigative or explanatory reporting on the impact of poverty and childhood trauma. Reporters may also choose to examine the performance of the institutions and government and private programs that serve these families. We’re interested in proposals for projects that look at child welfare and child health and well-being, including, but not limited to, the impact of toxic stress; the intersection between partner violence and child abuse; the role of policy in improving prospects for children, including those in juvenile detention; and innovative approaches to the challenges that children in underserved communities face.
  • The Community Engagement Fund provides supplemental grants of $2,000 to underwrite innovative community engagement strategies.  Click here to read a blog post by Center Director Michelle Levander and watch a video about the goals of the grants.

Why Apply?

Knowledge and Skills: During field trips and seminars, participants hear from respected investigative journalists and leaders in community health, health policy and medicine.

Workshops provide practical reporting tips, expert sources, community engagement strategies and informed policy perspectives on the circumstances that shape health or ill health in communities across America, with a focus on children. Participants also gain insights into how to document health and demographic trends in their local communities through innovative storytelling and data visualization techniques.

Financial Support and Mentoring:  National Health Journalism Fellows each receive a reporting stipend of $2,000 to offset the costs of ambitious investigative and explanatory journalism. Two topic-focused journalism funds provide alternative sources of support ranging from $2,500 to $10,000 (details below), payable either to the Fellow or his or her media outlet. Journalism fellows also receive six months of mentoring from senior journalists as they usher their projects to completion.

How to Apply

Click here for details about how to apply to the 2016 National Fellowship and for a Hunt or Child Well-Being Fund grant.

What Past Fellows Say about the Fellowship

Michael LaForgia, Investigative Reporter, Tampa Bay Times:  It's one of the best one of these programs I've ever attended. The Fellowship showed me how to pursue social issues as public health stories and also taught me about the types of people to seek out as expert sources.

Seema Yasmin, Health Reporter, Dallas Morning News: The mentorship and networking opportunities are amazing. It's great to have the time to focus on planning a big reporting project and to have input from some of the best print and broadcast journalists and editors. I finally understand what community engagement really means and what it looks like. 

Rob PerezInvestigative Reporter, Honolulu Star-Advertiser:  Coming from an isolated place like Hawaii, this was a great opportunity to recharge my batteries andexchange ideas with top journalists from other states. I'm returning home better equipped to serve our readers.

Melody CaoReporter, SinoVision:  I think the most important thing I learned from the program is that health is not only about health care. It's about everything from social services, to politics, to culture. exchange ideas with top journalists from other states. 

Lottie Joiner, Senior Editor, The Crisis magazine: The information on brain development and the impact of toxic stress and trauma on children was eye-opening. This program was packed with information, tools and resources. I met wonderfully passionate and talented journalists who I know will change their communities with their projects.

Who Can Apply: 

USC Annenberg is looking for journalists who think big and want to produce stories that have an impact. 

This Fellowship is open to professional journalists from print, broadcast, and online media throughout the United States, including freelancers. Applicants do not need to be full-time health reporters, but should have a demonstrated interest in health issues, broadly defined to include the health of communities (see more below). The Fellowship will meet in Los Angeles in July 2016 (dates TBD). 

We prefer that applicants have a minimum of three years of professional experience; many have decades. Journalists writing for ethnic media are strongly encouraged to apply. Proposals for collaborative projects between mainstream and ethnic news outlets receive preference by our judges, as do projects produced for co-publication or co-broadcast in both mainstream and ethnic news outlets. Freelancers who apply should earn the majority of their income from journalism. Applicants must be based in the United States. Students and interns are ineligible.

Please contact us at if you have questions about your eligibility.

How to Apply

Click here for details about how to apply. 

Which Fellowship Is Right for Me? 


The 2016 Fellowship program is still in the planning stage. Among the highlights of the 2015 National Fellowship week:

  • Our keynote dinner speaker, the Honorable Cindy Lederman, a judge in the juvenile division of Miami-Dade County Circuit Judge, has been widely recognized for using research and science on the lifelong effects of trauma in early childhood to transform the county’s juvenile court and influence judicial decisions in child abuse and neglect cases nationwide.  She spoke about her pioneering efforts to ensure that decisions about the futures of children of young children who have been abused or neglected are made on the basis of what’s best for their long-term health, development and welfare. Read Ryan White's blog post about her talk for ReportingonHealth.
  • Anthony Iton, M.D., J.D., M.P.H., senior vice president for Healthy Communities for The California Endowment, gave a foundational talk about health disparities and how poverty, discrimination and lack of economic opportunity can lead to shortened lifespans. Dr. Iton coined the phrase now widely used by The California Endowment and others that “your ZIP code shouldn’t determine your life span.” 
  • Tina Cheng, M.D., professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and director of the Department of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, discussed her research on health disparities among poor children and approaches that can be undertaken by the health care and education systems to promote better outcomes.  Dr. Cheng also directs a Latino health center and the pediatrics department at Johns Hopkins Bayview clinic, which serves a low-income population, and is principal investigator of the NIH-funded DC Baltimore Research Center on Child Health Disparities with Howard University and Children's National Medical Center.  
  • Pat Levitt, Ph.D., provost professor at USC Keck School of Medicine, has been in the forefront of the national movement to educate parents, caregivers and policymakers about the effects on the brain of trauma--and negligence--in early childhood.  He  discussed cutting edge research on how experiences in early childhood lead to structural and biological changes in the brain.
  • Dr. Mary Meengs, medical director of the Humboldt  Independent Practice Association, discussed the results of her practice's two-year pilot project, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, to improve the health of and lower the cost of caring for "super-utilizers" -- people with chronic illnesses who turned up repeatedly in emergency rooms. Among the study's findings was that many of the patients' physical and emotional problems could be traced back to trauma suffered during their childhoods.  Ryan White blogged earlier this spring about the study's surprising finding.
  • Megan Smith, Dr.P.H., and Natasha-Rivera LaButhie, of the Yale University School of Medicine,  talked about their innovative program, New Haven Mental Health Outreach for Mothers Partnership, or MOMS, which focuses on improving mothers’ mental health and job skills and helping them meet their basic needs as a way to improve outcomes for their children.
  • Field Trip to Children’s Institute-­‐ Harbor-­‐UCLA Medical Center Partnership Site in Torrance: Our National Health Journalism Fellows got a chance to observe firsthand the latest evidence­‐based interventions and two-generational approaches to family trauma and violence. Children’s Institute has a rich array of programs at its Torrance facility including a therapeutic pre­‐school for young children who cannot function in a regular pre-school because of trauma and abuse; a program nicknamed “bug in the ear,” during which a therapist advises a parent through a device worn on the ear on how to interact in a healthy way with his or her child while being observed; and special support groups for parents whose children are under the guardianship of child protective services to help them to regain the skills to have their children returned. Ryan White blogged for ReportingonHealth about what he saw during the field trip.
  • A hands-on half-day workshop on data analysis and data visualization featured presentations by Paul Overberg, until recently database editor for USA Today, and Becca Aaronson, co-leader of the news app team for the Texas Tribune, about Census data and other data sources that can help reporters provide context for their projects.
  • A session on community engagement helped Fellows learn strategies to maximize the impact of their Fellowship projects. Among the speakers wase 2011 National Fellow Kate Long, whose 60+ story Fellowship project for the Charleston Gazette triggered a statewide conversation in West Virginia about how to reverse its obesity epidemic, and Cole Goins, distribution and engagement manager for the Center for Investigative Reporting, whose community engagement techniques include commissioning guerrilla theater productions and organizing art exhibits. 
  • Editors from around the country joined their reporters for a half-day brainstorming session about the reporting projects each Fellow will undertake over the next six months. Click here for a list of the 2015 National Fellows, and then click again on each Fellow's name to read a blog post describing his or her project.


Congratulations to the Seattle Times, which has received a national Edward R. Murrow Award for Hard News for a video produced for 2015 National Fellow JoNel Aleccia’s Fellowship project about a cluster of fatal birth defects in several counties in Washington. Click here to watch the video.

Despite the hype, does paying for performance actually work? This webinar will tour the evidence and take a hard look at claims that it’s a panacea for boosting health care quality and curbing spending. Find info & register here.


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