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About AHCJ: General News

First Urban Health Workshop attracts more than 100 Date: 10/23/07

Urban Health Journalism WorkshopNew York City Deputy Health Commissioner Mary T. Bassett raved about the quality of water in New York and lamented the huge disparities in health in her city.

New York Times reporter Richard Perez-Pena criticized the media's coverage of diabetes and lack of proper surveillance by the nation's public health system.

Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, spoke about the battle over the State Children's Health Insurance Program and the problems with abstinence-only funded sexual education programs.

Frank Bass, director of computer investigations for The Associated Press, discusses how he mapped health data for a recent project.
Frank Bass, director of computer investigations for The Associated Press, discusses how he mapped health data for a recent project.

These were some of the highlights of the first Urban Health Journalism Workshop presented by the Association of Health Care Journalists and its Center for Excellence in Health Care Journalism. More than 100 working journalists and journalism students attended the event hosted at the Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York. Montefiore Medical Center was the lead sponsor for the conference.

Sessions explored the health issues of children, seniors and immigrants in urban settings, as well as obesity, mental health, disaster preparedness and the mapping of local health data.

The conference was kicked off at The New York Times' new 52-story building. After admiring the Times' wall of Pulitzer Prizes, journalists gathered to hear from Bassett, the deputy commissioner for the Division of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, who gave the meeting's keynote address.

"Public health is all around us - it's not a single story," Bassett said. She talked about the city's efforts to improve health such as banning trans fats in city restaurants and pushing higher taxes on tobacco.

Cities can be healthier places to live because they promote walking rather than driving, she said. But she noted the twin epidemics of diabetes and obesity threaten to reverse gains in average life expectancy.

After her talk, journalists gathered for cocktails and admired the Times' terrific views of the city.

Attendees of the first Urban Health Journalism Workshop listen to speakers talk about mental health issues.
Attendees of the Urban Health Journalism Workshop listen to speakers talk about mental health issues.

Greg Burke, Montefiore's vice president of planning; Jo Ivey Boufford, president of The New York Academy of Medicine; and Peggy Shepard, cofounder of We Act for Environmental Justice of West Harlem, led off the next day's first session by explaining what makes urban health different.

To illustrate, Burke compared the health status of people living in the Bronx to those living in suburban Nassau County, N.Y.. The uninsured rate is 25 percent in the Bronx versus 10 percent in Nassau County. Not only is the population different, but the health system is vastly different as well in cities versus suburbia, he said.

"U.S. health policy is built on a suburban model, and it doesn't take into account the fundamental differences in urban areas," he said.

In addition to the eight panel discussions, participants explored the new facilities of the Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY.

Workshop attendees enjoyed socializing at a reception at the new Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY.
Workshop attendees enjoyed socializing at a reception at the new Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY.

Five journalists attended the workshop on fellowships supported by the Community Health Foundation of Western & Central New York. Two journalists attended the workshop on ethnic media fellowships supported by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Other funders of the conference included The Commonwealth Fund, Consumer Reports/Consumers Union and The New York Academy of Medicine.

Audio recordings and multimedia presentations from nearly all of the sessions are available to AHCJ members online.