Sound Partners for Community Health

Dates of Program: November 1996 to July 2006

Field of Work: Radio stations demonstrating that community-centered journalism can address local health care issues.

Problem Synopsis: Media coverage of health issues had been weakest at the local level, according to RWJF staff, who thought that educational outreach conducted by local radio broadcasting and local community partners could play an effective role in informing and involving citizens in health care. Past strategies for community outreach had centered on providing content to local broadcasters. In this top-down model, national broadcasters or others gave local stations ready-to-use materials that complemented national programming. Generally, these efforts failed to capture the imagination or passions of local communities.

Synopsis of the Work: Sound Partners for Community Health supported community collaborations which produced original broadcast programming—short reports, in-depth features, call-in programs, issues-oriented drama and coverage of live forums or other events—and related outreach to the community.

Key Results

  • Sound Partners funded 148 collaborations involving local broadcasters and other community organizations.

  • Participating broadcast stations received more than 100 honors for excellence in community service and broadcasting, including several Edward R. Murrow Awards, National Center for Outreach awards and an Emmy® Award nomination.

  • Sound Partners stations increased their capacity to produce in-depth health coverage while community partners involved in outreach acquired the media skills to better present their stories.

  • The Sound Partners program gave expression to typically unheard voices of youth, immigrants and the working poor. Teenagers and non-English speakers served as producers, interviewers and hosts of a variety of radio formats.

  • Stations and community and media partners worked collaboratively to combine programming and outreach to be more effective than either could have been alone.