2018 California Fellows tackle urgent topics for the state, nation

It’s hard to imagine a more urgent time than this one when it comes to supporting great journalism on the health challenges facing Californians.

We’re just starting to understand the impact of federal policies that threaten to undo the Affordable Care Act — which had its most successful launch in California. And anti-immigrant rhetoric and stepped up deportations have created a state of siege in California’s immigrant communities, affecting health and well-being — and those stories need to be told.

That’s why I’m so pleased and excited to welcome our incoming class of California Fellows.

The Center for Health Journalism at USC Annenberg will bring almost two dozen California journalists to the campus this week for its annual California Fellowship, an all-expenses-paid five-day training institute that supports investigative and explanatory reporting projects on health challenges facing Californians. We are able to offer this program thanks to the generous support of The Blue Shield of California Foundation and The California Endowment.

Each of the participating journalists will receive reporting grants of $1,000, and up to five will receive community engagement grants of $2,000. All will receive six months of expert mentoring on projects they undertake as part of the program. Among the topics the journalists will explore with our help are: gaps in end-of-life care in rural communities and in Latino and African American communities; the reasons for the high suicide rate in several northern California counties; the alarming rise in evictions from nursing homes; the effect of community violence on high school students; how public health officials are responding to the legalization of marijuana; new research and approaches for addressing the disproportionately high mortality rate for African American infants; and barriers to mental health care for Latino farmworkers.

The Fellowship, which will run from March 18–22, will explore how neighborhood conditions, social inequities, race, education and the environment influence health and how recent changes in the healthcare landscape affect Californians. 

Among the health policy speakers are Peter V. Lee, executive director of Covered California; Anna Roth, director of Contra Costa Health Services; Anthon Iton, MD, MPH, JD, senior vice president for healthy communities for The California Endowment; and Jagruti Shukla, MD, MPH, director of primary care for Los Angeles County.

Journalism speakers include Kathleen McGrory, investigative reporter for the Tampa Bay Times, speaking on gun violence and children; Meghan Hoyer, data editor for the Associated Press, on datasets for health reporting; Jesse Hardman, founder of the “Listening Post,” speaking on engagement strategies for journalists; Bethany Barnes, education reporter of the Oregonian, and Erin Schumaker, senior reporter of HuffPost, on housing, gentrification and health; and Cristina Londono, national correspondent of Telemundo, and Ruben Castaneda, health reporter for US News & World Report, on the immigrant experience and health.

The Fellows will go on two field trips to get a better understanding of how public schools, hospitals and healthcare centers are supplementing their traditional missions by helping people address unmet social and economic needs, from having enough to eat to addressing trauma and domestic violence. They’ll spend a half day at the clinics associated with the LAC + USC Medical Center, where physicians now ask patients about stressors like immigration and housing problems and then direct them to services at the adjoining Wellness Center and another half day at the health center at Locke High School in South LA, learning about the emerging field of trauma-informed education.

Here are the 2018 California Fellows: 

Since 2005, the Center for Health Journalism has educated more than 800 journalists on the craft and content of health journalism, with an emphasis on the relationship between health and place. Past Fellowship projects can be found here.