About AHCJ: General News

New fellowship program encourages examination of health care systems Date: 05/19/10


Contact: Len Bruzzese, AHCJ, 573-884-5606

More information:
Understanding and applying for the fellowship

The Association of Health Care Journalists has announced a new fellowship program to help journalists understand and report on the performance of local health care systems and the U.S. health system as a whole. The AHCJ Media Fellowships on Health Performance, supported by The Commonwealth Fund, provides for training as well as field reporting assistance.

The program for mid-career journalists is intended to give print, broadcast and online reporters an opportunity to learn about examples of high-performing health care systems, to focus on innovations in care delivery, and to explore a system or its significant parts to determine what makes that system effective or ineffective. Fellows will be able to examine providers of care, insurers, regulators and policymakers.

The Commonwealth Fund grant will cover the costs of fellows attending two customized seminars in New York, the annual conference of AHCJ, a regional health journalism workshop and up to $6,000 in individual field reporting and research support. Fellows will also receive mentor support and individual consultation on their projects.Logo: AHCJ  Media Fellowships on Health Performance

"Too often, reporters are asked to write about their local health and health care systems without the benefit of being able to compare them with others around the country," said Charles Ornstein, president of the AHCJ board of directors and a senior reporter at ProPublica. "Thanks to this generous grant, the fellowship attempts to remedy that by providing reporters with the resources and tools needed to provide the context necessary for their communities."

Applications for the 2010-2011 fellowships are now being accepted until July 9, said AHCJ Executive Director Len Bruzzese. Fellows will be selected competitively by an independent panel of journalists appointed by AHCJ.

"We hope these fellows will tackle the tough questions and write pieces that get to the heart of what makes their local health and health care systems effective or ineffective in delivering accessible quality care," Bruzzese said.

Each reporter will continue in his or her current job and will be expected to complete a significant and unique reporting project by the end of the fellowship year in June 2011. The field reporting assistance will allow them to complete site visits for interviewing relevant stakeholders, collecting data relevant to the health systems and employing any technology to deliver multiplatform stories.

"The aim is to produce a package or series of in-depth stories in any media format examining a system within the fellow's own community or another community, possibly pinpointing what makes it a high-performing model or comparing it to higher- and lower-performing models," said AHCJ Immediate Past President Trudy Lieberman, who will play a key role in organizing the training sessions. "Fellows may examine the factors that make these systems perform well, including political, economic, technological and leadership considerations."

Interested reporters should have a minimum of 10 years of experience as a professional journalist. Some health reporting experience is a plus.

"The Commonwealth Fund is delighted to be sponsoring these fellowships at the dawn of a new era in health care delivery in the United States," said Barry Scholl, the Fund's senior vice president for communications and publishing. "Journalists need and deserve the opportunity to learn more about the complex environment surrounding health care in the aftermath of reform. AHCJ has a long and respected track record of providing training and guidance for reporters and editors, and we're pleased to be supporting them on this project."

AHCJ and Commonwealth will republish or post online links to the fellows' projects at the end of the fellowship year.

With the intense interest in health care reform of the past year, examinations of health systems have been in the news. They've included profiles of towns where health care expenditures dwarf the national average and spotlights on hospitals and health systems held up as examples from which others can learn. This fellowship attempts to encourage more reporting that will illuminate these often-complicated topics.

The Association of Health Care Journalists is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing public understanding of health care issues. With about 1,000 members across the United States and around the globe, its mission is to improve the quality, accuracy and visibility of health care reporting, writing and editing. The association and its Center for Excellence in Health Care Journalism provide training, resources and a professional home for journalists. Offices are based at the Missouri School of Journalism.

The Commonwealth Fund is a private foundation that aims to promote a high-performing health care system that achieves better access, improved quality and greater efficiency, particularly for society's most vulnerable. The Fund carries out this mandate by supporting independent research on health care issues and making grants to improve health care practice and policy.

More detailed information and an application:
Understanding and applying for the fellowship
2010-2011 application form