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As part of the Center for Health Journalism Fellowship, journalists work with a senior fellow to develop a special project. Recent projects have examined health disparities by ZIP code in the San Francisco Bay Area, anxiety disorders and depression in the Hispanic immigrant community in Washington state, and the importance of foreign-born doctors to health care in rural communities.
Tiffany Krastins stopped receiving food stamp benefits this past September. But with a family of six, money is still tight. “Eight-hundred dollars a month to feed six people, it breaks down to about $1.53 per meal,” she says.
“Dollars that were intended for a wide array of medical services started being gobbled up by just one drug,” said Charles Bacchi, president of an industry trade group.
According to the Maine Children’s Alliance, 30 percent of Maine kids ages 10-17 are overweight. That’s more than 36,000 kids, and nearly half of those are considered obese. And children from low-income families are especially vulnerable.
The government framework set up to protect Sonoma County renters from unsafe and unhealthy living conditions has developed such extensive cracks that it has left many tenants without public recourse save for the court system, where help often comes too late to make fixes or fight evictions.
In California's Sonoma County, some families face living conditions that include high levels of dangerous mold and other asthma triggers. When landlords don't act, problems can fester for years, leading to a host of health problems.
Jennifer’s experience in Florida’s Medicaid system isn't unique: She waited three months for her son’s appointment and drove 50 miles, only to have the doctor spend five minutes with him, ignore her concerns and tell her to go someplace else.
An unlikely coalition of health insurers, labor and consumer advocates are pushing for controls on high-cost drugs in the nation's most populous state. “California is truly ground zero for this fight,” one advocate said. “It is clear Congress as a whole is not going to take meaningful action."
In California's Sonoma County, an alarming number of tenants live in housing so run down that it poses a risk to their health and safety. For Karla Orozco's family, the hazards included mold, rats and cockroaches, a broken heater, and sewage backups.
“If you’re not able to provide food, it makes it difficult to feel like you’re living a dignified life,” researcher Darcy Freedman said. “It’s a basic need and the mental health implications are very real. ‘If I can’t provide food for my kids or partner, who am I?’”
The effect of squalid housing on people’s health is difficult to determine in California's Sonoma County, since there is no study, stockpile of data or government agency that tracks illness in connection with living environments.

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Interested in learning more about the health, education and social challenges children face as a result of poverty and adversity?  Apply now for the 2016 National Health Journalism Fellowship, which comes with $2,000-$10,000 reporting grant, five days of intensive all-expenses-paid traing in L.A., and six months of mentoring. Details here.

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