Spencer Sherman, California HealthCare Foundation

TITLE: Director of Publishing and Communications

FUNDING AREAS: Public health, health care, health and media issues

CONTACT: ssherman@chcf.org, 510-238-1040

IP TAKE: A longtime media exec with a ho-hum title, Sherman controls a serious pot of money for health media. 

PROFILE: Impressed by the success of the Center for Health Reporting, a health journalism venture funded by the California HealthCare Foundation, I sought out more information on the man behind the seven-year (so far!), multimillion-dollar project. His name: Spencer Sherman, and he acts as director of publishing and communications at the California HealthCare Foundation (CHCF).

Before coming to the CHCF, Sherman had a long and colorful career in media. A few highlights: He covered the Supreme Court beat for an Ohio newspaper in the 1960s. He later worked as a journalistic correspondent in Asia and became a television executive in Japan. Most recently, he was an editor at legal self-help publisher Nolo Press, where he worked on the production of such timely works as Guide to Social Security Disability: Getting and Keeping Your Benefits. (Having watched my autistic sister struggle with securing disability benefits over the years, I am personally grateful there are folks out there providing resources for vulnerable populations about their rights and entitlements under U.S. law.)

At the California HealthCare Foundation, Sherman lends his media expertise to the oversight of some pretty major grants relating to health care and communications. Among them is the the more than $7 million that CHCF has committed over six years to the Center for Health Reporting.

The Center for Health Reporting is an innovative journalistic venture operating out of the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism. The center provides journalists, media organizations, writers, and editors with a place to write just about health care and health issues relating to the state of California. In an era that can be hostile to good old-fashioned journalism, the Center for Health Reporting provides a valuable service to people who want good information about health-care issues they're facing, whether related to the Affordable Care Act or immigration reform. In a changing regulatory environment, the Center for Health Reporting strives to educate Californians and further the state's health and well-being.

Other recent projects overseen by Sherman include: a $220,000, two-year investment in getting health-care reporting on public television; a $2.3 million grant to publicize health-care issues through new media platforms; and a $75,020 promotional video for Californians on the Health Benefits Exchange program. In short, Sherman is in charge of health-care messaging and media projects at the California HealthCare Foundation, investing millions of dollars a year into keeping Californians informed on health-care policies and other issues that are important to understand if you're going to make good decisions about your health.

Media organizations interested in connecting with Sherman should be aware that he has a fondness for innovative communication methods and for new media in particular, despite early resistance to some of the more modern modes of communication. Among other things, Sherman is proud that the CHCF was one of the first foundations to create an iPhone app.

The California HealthCare Foundation continues to solicit proposals from organizations seeking funding in the area of California's public health. While the foundation typically funds projects through its requests for proposals, it does take unsolicited grant requests as well on a more limited basis. Information on securing funding from the CHCF is available here.