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2015 National Health Journalism Fellowship

Event Type: 
Date and Time: 
Sunday, July 12, 2015 to Thursday, July 16, 2015
Program Description: 

The 2015 program was 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 gained 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 -- delved into the impact of poverty on children, including food insecurity, substandard housing and parents’ economic insecurity.

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

Fellows received advice on engagement strategies that can help to maximize the impact of reporting. In fact, we challenged them to engage more deeply with the communities their news outlet serves.

The 21 journalists accepted into the program joined 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. California has the largest numbers of Asian and Latino residents in the nation, and many of the health challenges and opportunities that accompany changing demographics have been debated, legislated and experienced here.

The 2015 National Fellowship was 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 blog posts about their proposed Fellowship projects and their published or broadcast work. Summaries of and links to all their Fellowship stories can be found here.

In conjunction with the National Fellowship, we administer two funds that underwrite specialized reporting:

  • 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 Hunt grantee 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. The Hunt 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 new 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.
We offered special Community Engagement Grants to five National Fellows. Click here to learn more about these grants. And here's a video in which Director Michelle Levander explains their purpose:

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.

Click here for details about how to apply to the 2015 National Fellowship and for a Hunt or Child Well-being grant.

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 from July 12-16, 2015. 

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.

Click here for details about how to apply and a link to our online application.

Which Fellowship Is Right for Me?  


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.

• 2013 National Health Journalism Fellow Andrea McDaniels of the Baltimore Sun and her editor, Diana Sugg, discussed McDaniels Fellowship project, Collateral Damage,which examined the unseen impact of violence on children, caregivers and victims’ relatives in the Baltimore area. The series sparked the creation of a neighborhood youth violence prevention plan that has received a $75,000 grant. It also has received numerous awards, including first place for public health reporting from the Association of Health Care Journalists, an honorable mention from Columbia University’s Dart Award for Excellence in Coverage of Trauma, and a James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism from Hunter College.

 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.




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