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.