Endowment funds local health reporter

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Let’s get the headline out of the way first: The Merced Sun-Star is hiring a health care reporter!

Now, the interesting part. The Sun-Star‘s new 18-month spot is funded by The California Endowment, which you may remember as a key backer of California Watch. merced1It’s part of the endowment’s 10-year plan to improve local health.

Merced County was chosen as one of the 14 places in the state to work with the endowment in a 10-year plan to help transform communities and neighborhoods into places where everybody can be healthy, safe and ready to learn, according to Building Healthy Communities.

Thanks to that larger mission, the Merced health care reporter will cover some interesting sub-beats in addition to the Sun-Star‘s traditional health coverage.

The endowment started with 10 goals to accomplish over the next decade. After polling folks in those communities, it set three priorities over the next three years: create healthier youngsters to grow, learn, play and lead, which organizers call “Healthy Youth Development;” prevent and reduce violence; and link economic development to community health.

They’re areas that are certainly not foreign to health care journalists, and a reminder that reporting on the health of the community means thinking beyond hospitals and outbreaks.

AHCJ members will probably already remember that this isn’t the first time Merced has taken the lead in health care journalism innovation, and that the new reporter is really the next step in an ongoing process.


The California Endowment’s Mary Lou Fulton posted some background on the project, a sort of “how-to” primer she wrote for foundations looking to support local news. In addition to explaining why the foundation chose to fund local projects, Fulton also spends a considerable amount of time addressing concerns about editorial independence and conflicts of interest.

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