One fellow takes notes on the L.A. River tour as part of the Health and the River: How Restoring Urban Rivers Can Revitalize Cities trip.
USC Annenberg

California Health Journalism Fellowship brings 20 reporters to USC for training and launch of ambitious reporting projects

Twenty California journalists are gathering this week for the USC Annenberg California Health Journalism Fellowship.

The journalists, chosen from a competitive field, are taking part in intensive workshops and then spending six months working on ambitious health journalism projects with support from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

Topics explored during the weeklong fellowship include connections between community health and where and how you live, the successes and challenges of health reform and health care innovations that are making a difference in the lives of Californians.

The Fellows work for California outlets, including major daily newspapers and public radio stations, regional newspapers, online news outlets and ethnic media outlets.

“It’s been an amazing opportunity getting to interact with such a talented group of speakers and fellow reporters,” said California Health Journalism Fellow Diana Aguilera, a reporter at Valley Public Radio in Fresno “It’s a place where reporters can share ideas and learn from the best in health journalism.”

Michelle Levander, founding director of The California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships, said, “We anticipate great things from our California Health Journalism Fellows, who will be exploring critically important community health themes.”

Each California Health Journalism Fellow receives a reporting grant of $1,000 and mentoring from senior journalists as they spend up to six months working on reporting projects on topics of importance to their communities.

Planned projects will explore the increase in new HIV infections among young men in Fresno County; the skyrocketing incidence of domestic violence in Del Norte County; the relationship between substandard housing and illness in Sonoma County; the high incidence of STDs and unplanned pregnancies among Vietnamese Americans; the impact of federal penalties on safety net hospitals; mental health issues among African Americans in the Bay Area; problems with infection control in hospitals in Orange County; and how the state’s health care safety net is evolving under Obamacare.

The 2015 California Health Journalism Fellowship was made possible because of the generous support of The California Endowment and the Blue Shield of California Foundation, two of California’s largest health grant organizations.

Gerald F. Kominski, Ph.D.,  director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, kicked off the program Sunday night with a keynote presentation, “What’s Next for Obamacare in California?” In a wide-ranging conversation with Anna Gorman, senior correspondent for Kaiser Health News, Kominski discussed the implications of the Supreme Court’s upcoming King vs. Burwell decision as well as challenges the state faces in making sure that the newly insured gain access to health care, despite physician shortages, “narrow networks” of providers in health plans and cultural barriers.

The journalists also heard experts speak about promising approaches to mitigating health disparities linked to ethnicity, race and economic status. Dr. Anthony Iton,  senior vice president for The California Endowment, told California Health Journalism Fellows that broadening health care access doesn’t solve the underlying problem of poor health. Instead, neighborhood-level improvements are what can make for meaningful change.

“Health care is what happens when things go wrong,” he said. “Health care doesn’t actually make you healthy — it prevents you from deteriorating rapidly.”

Fellows also visited an AltaMed clinic in El Monte, which serves a largely Latino and Chinese immigrant community, to see firsthand how pharmacists are providing primary care, along with doctors, to some of the clinic’s sickest patients.

For more information, visit, the program’s online community for health journalists, health policymakers and healthcare providers.

2015 California Health Journalism Fellows:

Diana Aguilera, multimedia reporter, Valley Public Radio
Anna Almendrala, healthy living editor, Huffington Post
Avishay Artsy, reporter and producer, KCRW
Claudia Boyd-Barrett, freelance reporter, Ventura County Star
Megan Burks, reporter, KPBS
Andrea Castillo, immigration reporter, Fresno Bee
Jenna Chandler, health reporter, OC Register
Emily Jo Cureton, reporter, Triplicate
Leila Day, reporter/producer, KALW
Jenna Flannigan, senior editor, Healthline Networks
Jenny Gold, reporter, Kaiser Health News
Angela Hart, reporter, Santa Rosa Press Democrat
Ana Ibarra, health reporter, Merced Sun-Star
Neda Iranpou, anchor/reporter, San Diego 6 TV (XETV-TV)
Soumya Karlamangla, reporter, Los Angeles Times
Parimal Rohit, freelance reporter, IndiaWest
Alayna Shulman, reporter, Record Searchlight
Julio Vaqueiro, anchor and reporter, KVEA Channel 52 (Telemundo)
Danielle Venton, reporter, KRCB Public Media
Thy Vo, reporter, Voice of OC