The Urban Health Media Project (UHMP) teaches high school students in Washington, D.C. and Baltimore to report on health and social issues that are often overlooked in their communities. We understand that “healthiness” results from a variety of forces as described by the World Health Organization: “Healthiness is not the absence of disease, but the mental, physical and spiritual well being of a person or community.” Not a day goes by without a news report highlighting socioeconomic and racial disparities in health outcomes; the insidious impact of violence; the alarming rise in teen suicide; and the importance of health policy concerns within the American political debate. Our students’ multimedia reporting on these and other topics includes video, podcasts, articles and photography produced under the guidance of a diverse and experienced group of journalists that include reporters and editors who work or have worked at media outlets including USA TODAY, the Baltimore Sun, the Wall St. Journal and the Washington Post.
It’s been an incredible first three years for the Urban Health Media Project. Our students were taught how to shoot videos and take photos by a two-time Emmy award winning USA TODAY multimedia journalist and how to interview and write by former reporters and editors from The Wall Street Journal, the Baltimore Sun and USA TODAY. They had film workshops with a Howard University film professor and will be getting podcast training with a National Public Radio producer soon. They’ve interviewed people in powerful positions – including U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams – and people in their communities who had never told their stories. We’ve had eight stories and four videos published in USA TODAY and usatoday.com and two in USA TODAY’s Best Years magazine. These include a page 1 USA TODAY cover story on “fatherlessness” for Father’s Day and a video interview on mental health with Hollywood star Taraji P. Henson. One of our students, now an intern for us while at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, spoke on a patient safety panel at the December 2019 annual conference for the hospital rating organization Leapfrog Group. A patient safety slide show that intern created with her own and other students’ work was also displayed at the conference. Two students spoke on Capitol Hill – and got standing ovations – about their projects on the “code of silence” around domestic and sexual violence in the African American and Hispanic communities. We also have former students who are now interns at Pomona College, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Virginia Union University in Richmond and University of the District of Columbia. Another former student and intern is at Syracuse University. They are all teachers and role models helping to show the next generation of UHMP student journalists how to spread the message of health and hope through multimedia storytelling.
A Message from Our Co-Founder
Young people, especially those of color, deserve a voice. And people need to hear what they say about their communities. That pretty much sums up my motivation for co-founding the Urban Health Media Project (UHMP). The timing was right: Media job prospects have never been better for these diverse voices. I’ve been USA TODAY’s healthcare policy reporter since October 1, 2013 (the day the Affordable Care Act exchanges opened). Sure, health insurance is important. But of all the stories I’ve covered on this beat, the ones that resonated the most were at the intersection of health and broader social issues. That is, factors including food, transportation and education, that help determine a community’s health. And the mental illness and addiction that is often ignored as parents struggle to feed their children and stay in their homes. Our Washington, D.C. and Baltimore high school students started off covering a wide range of topics, but the focus narrowed considerably when they could cover the health-related issues that most piqued their interest. This included teen suicide, domestic and dating violence, mental health stigma and what one of our college interns coined “post traumatic slave disorder.” There is a theme in their journalistic interests: Toxic stress. Some of the places they visited – a new apartment building for formerly homeless tenants, an urban farm, a Baltimore emergency room and a violence-ridden public housing development – and the stories they heard hit very close to home. It’s more than “write what you know,” however. These students are reporting, writing, shooting and recording the problems and the potential fixes. They are part of the solution. Nothing I’ve done in my professional life has ever been as rewarding - or challenging. And nothing to me is as important as giving a new generation of black, brown and disadvantaged reporters the tools to tell these stories.
Meet our Student Interns
is a freshman at Pomona College after graduating as valedictorian from Emerson Preparatory School in Washington, D.C. She has a variety of interests, particularly journalism, fashion and design, media, and social justice. In the past, Isabel has written for the NorthWest Current, a local D.C. newspaper...
is both a sophomore at New York University and a young adult who is passionate about addressing issues that specifically impact minorities and people of color. Through her work with the Urban Health Media Project, she has been able to successfully research, write and publish articles addressing the systematic mistreatment of African American males, the existing inequalities in health facilities...
is a sophomore at Morgan State University who has a double major in Biology and Chemistry and is on the Pre-Med track. She hopes to become a neonatal surgeon. She also takes French, Spanish and Political Science...