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Sound Partners for Community Health

"The story of the Copley's ordeal launched the Health Care at the Crossroads series, examining how welfare reform affected people's access to health care. Within a few months of the story's broadcast, a federal judge ruled that children's SSI benefits couldn't be counted in the income eligibility for welfare.”
—Susan Leffler,
reporter, West Virginia Public Radio Network, speaking about a desperately poor Appalachian family's access to health care and the powerful results telling their story had on policy makers
Sound Partners for Community Health has come to a close after a good long run—10 years! It brought together public broadcasters and community organizations to address local health and health care problems using a variety of programming and community engagement techniques. Over the course of its four grant rounds, 148 grants totaling $5.4 million have been awarded to public radio and television stations, community partners and other media partners around the country.

Over the course of its four grant rounds, 148 grants totaling $5.4 million have been awarded to public radio and television stations, community partners and media partners around the country. Sound Partners’ grantees have earned 89 national, local and regional awards for excellence in community service broadcasting. The accomplishments of Sound Partners’ projects have been remarkable and varied: improving access to local health care services while supporting diverse voices on the air-waves, building organizational capacity, energizing public dialogue, and informing policymakers.

The Sound Partners’ concept is simple: help ordinary people understand everyday health issues in their communities, engage them in creating solutions, and track results. These partnerships benefited broadcasters, local organizations, and the community as a whole by leveraging media and community resources and by informing and energizing public dialogue. In the process, communities embraced the opportunity to become active producers of media content, while local media had the opportunity to become an essential resource, convener, and platform for rich, community-relevant content and dialogue that meet local needs. In collaboration, partners staked claims in the emerging digital and broadband environment and better equipped the community with 21st century literacy.

Beth Mastin co-directed Sound Partners. With a team of experts in broadcasting, health care and nonprofit management, MasComm Associates, through the Sound Partners’ National Program Office, supported stations and community organizations in their efforts to develop programming and outreach related to health issues. As the communications office for this competitive national grant program, MasComm Associates developed outreach materials, conducted training conferences and provided ongoing help to grantees. MasComm Associates also coordinated information exchanges among grantees and provided links to other national initiatives, primarily through the project’s weekly updated web site.

Numerous associates provide services to the Sound Partners’ National Program office, contracting both with MasComm Associates and the Benton Foundation. Sallie Bodie provided training for grantees, issue research, outreach partner development, and conference planning. Karen Hodgkiss served as editor for Vibrations, the program’s semi-annual newsletter, while Gale Petersen, Eve VanRensselaer, and Catherine Stifter maintain an active and information-rich Web site.

Since 1996, the Benton Foundation and The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation have sustained this unique partnership that addressed a core component of each foundation’s mission: fostering healthy communities through the collaborative use of local media.

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