Sound Partners for Community Health

Over the past several years, the Internet has captured the attention of Americans. Health-related Web sites, capable of providing a wealth of health care information for the "connected" population, seem to spring up on a weekly basis. The potential of the Internet should not, however, obscure the contribution made by a more traditional means of communications that continues to reach millions of Americans—local radio.

To help local radio stations improve their health care programming and have more impact in their listening areas, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation teamed up with the Benton Foundation to develop, in 1996, a national program called Sound Partners for Community Health. In an unusual twist, a local radio station, to be eligible for funding, needed to collaborate with a community organization, working in a field such as children's health, welfare reform, or end-of-life care.

In this chapter, Digby Diehl, a free-lance journalist and previous contributor to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Anthology, tells the story of the Sound Partners program, largely as seen through the eyes of some of the 59 grantees and their partners. Unlike many Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded programs, which attempt to affect policy at national or state levels and which take place in large metropolitan areas, most of the activity of Sound Partners occurs in small towns and rural areas of America. The story that Diehl recounts is one of local public radio and local institutions, and the way in which they combine their forces to raise awareness of health issues and bring about change in their own communities.