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Journalists gear up for launch of ambitious health reports

The California Health Journalism Fellowship brings 20 reporters to USC for a week of training workshops

Twenty California journalists gathered this week for the California Health Journalism Fellowship based at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

The journalists, chosen from a competitive field, took part in several workshops before spending six months on ambitious health journalism projects with support from USC Annenberg.

What’s next for the nation’s health care plan?

Gerald Kominski, director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, kicked off the program on March 1 with the keynote presentation of “What’s Next for Obamacare in California?”

In a 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.

Anthony Iton, senior vice president for The California Endowment, told 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.

Anthony Iton

“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 how pharmacists are providing primary care, along with doctors, to some of the clinic’s sickest patients.

Hot topics

Other topics explored during the week: 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 for Californians.

California Health Journalism Fellowship, 2015

Sonoma County reporter Angela Hart participates in a discussion. (Photo/Albert Sabate)

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 fellow receives a grant of $1,000 and mentoring from senior journalists as they spend up to six months 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 receive support from The California Endowment and the Blue Shield of California Foundation, two of California’s largest health grant organizations.

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

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Journalists gear up for launch of ambitious health reports

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