USC Annenberg / Brett Van Ort

USC Annenberg collaboration tackles the connection between immigration status and health

LOS ANGELES -- Many immigrants feel isolated in America – suffering that can turn toxic over time. In the Living in the Shadows series, six news organizations from around the country have joined together with the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism to highlight how immigration status affects health.

Joining together as the Reporting on Health Collaborative, the project team involves Mundo Hispánico (Atlanta), New America Media (California and New York), Radio Bilingüe (Fresno and Washington state), WESA Pittsburgh, Univision Los Angeles (KMEX 34) and Univision Arizona (KTVW 33). 

The bilingual series’ latest installment – aired this week from Univisión KMEX 34 Los Ángeles – sheds light on how detention centers struggle with serving the health care needs of those caught in authorities’ nets. Annabelle Sedano, a reporter, and Alonso Yanez, a web producer, created the multi-part news package.  

“We are extremely honored to have joined forces with the USC School of Communication and Journalism on this important topic; a topic that affects the immigrant community tremendously,” said Marco Flores, news director/West Coast regional director, Univisión.  “This series goes beyond the issue of immigration reform laws. It is about the basic human right to health and well-being.”

The series, launched in January, also explores the high health and emotional costs of family separation due to deportation. It examines when health care systems meet the need of the country’s immigrant and refugee population and when they fail them.

The health of immigrants has been shown to deteriorate as they spend more time in America. Does disadvantage make them sick? Or are some immigrants less healthy than they seem when they first arrive? In upcoming stories, the series will explore the implications of these questions, given that undocumented immigrants are excluded from both Medicaid and the new insurance subsidies available through Obamacare.

“The health of immigrants increasingly will define the health of America,” said Michelle Levander, founder of the Reporting on Health Collaborative. “We are honored that these extraordinary  journalists, reporting in English and Spanish and through broadcast, print and online storytelling, have joined together with the USC Annenberg School to bring attention to these important issues. 

“Journalists can have a remarkable influence on the public discourse on critical issues, such as immigration, when they join together on collaborative projects such as this one.”

The “Living in the Shadows” series would not have been possible without the visionary leadership of editors from diverse outlets across the country, the generous support of The California Endowment and the fine work of Project Editor William Heisel, a former reporter for the Los Angeles Times and the Orange County Register, Levander said.

Reporters for the series also include Anthony Advincula (New America Media); Erika Beras (WESA Pittsburgh); Karla Escamilla (Univisión Arizona); Johanes Roselló (Mundo Hispánico, Atlanta); and Zaidee Stavely and Luis Buen Abad, Radio Bilingüe (Fresno and Washington state).

All the journalists (and outlets) in the Reporting on Health Collaborative connected with Annenberg as fellows in The California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships. The program, based at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and funded by The California Endowment, provides a week of intensive training on health issues, followed by six months of one-on-one mentoring on ambitious health journalism projects. USC Annenberg invited these talented journalists to come together under the umbrella of the Reporting on Health Collaborative to produce this series of collaborative reports on how immigration status affects health.

All the stories published or broadcast in the ongoing series can be found here: or in Spanish at You can also connect with the project through its Facebook page or on Twitter at @immighealth.