Author Archives: Susan Heavey

Susan Heavey

About Susan Heavey

Susan Heavey, (@susanheavey) a Washington, D.C.-based journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on social determinants of health and curates related material at She welcomes questions and suggestions on resources and tip sheets at

Reporter’s work pushes regulators, legislators to act on opioids

Photo: Sam Owens, Charleston Gazette-MailEric Eyre’s investigative series, Painkiller Profiteers, chronicled massive pain pill shipments to West Virginia. This shows the cremated ashes of a West Virginia woman who died from a drug overdose.

Lack of work, educational gaps, despair, overprescribing – there’s a host of reasons behind the nation’s opioid crisis. It may seem daunting to reporters who want to nail down the epidemic’s causes, but sometimes you just have to keep digging – literally.

West Virginia reporter Eric Eyre realized something was off when, during a trip to the state pharmacy board, he began digging through boxes filled with faxes from drug wholesalers reporting suspicious pharmacy activity. Continue reading

#AHCJ17 panel addresses the cycle of toxic stress in young children

Photo: Pia Christensen/AHCJSt. Petersburg-based pediatric psychiatrist Mark Cavitt said that the effects of chronic stress are more likely for those exposed to a greater number of adverse childhood events.

Science is increasingly clear that constant exposure to stress in youth affects their bodies in ways that alters their brains and changes their response systems, especially younger children exposed more challenges, experts told attendees of a Health Journalism 2017 panel in Orlando.

Panelists noted that stress, even in young children, can be good. It helps spark protective reactions to protect the body from harm – say, crossing a busy street. But studies have shown the constant bombardment of stressful situations in kids can have a serious, cumulative impact. Continue reading

Social workers can help bridge crisis and care, say panelists at #AHCJ17

Photo: Susan Heavey/AHCJBryan Thompson (right), rural health and agriculture reporter for Kansas News Service, moderated a session on the impact of adding social workers to health care clinics at AHCJ’s annual conference in Orlando. Social workers Gabrielle Jackson of the accountable care organization Aledade (left) and Mary Ann Burg of the University of Central Florida (center), discussed how such work could improve patient care and outcomes beyond the diagnosis.

Crisis care. That’s what many people think of when they consider social work. But for social workers in the health care field, they see an increasing effort to not only solve immediate problems but to also think more holistically about people’s health, experts at a Health Journalism 2017 panel on the issue.

At the session, “Why a Social Worker May Be the MVP of the Clinic,” two members of the profession said that being incorporated into health care practices offers an immediate opportunity to connect with patients who need additional help outside of basic medical needs.

Doctors care for the patients, said Gabrielle Jackson, a licensed social worker for accountable care organization Aledade, but social workers provide important support, such as ensuring that a patient given a prescription can obtain it and then actually takes it. Continue reading

#AHCJ17 panels to address importance of social determinants

Health care reporters coming to Health Journalism 2017 in search of story ideas on covering health gaps and the social constructs behind them have a host of panels to choose from while in Orlando.

On the issue of costs, Saturday morning’s session on “Bending the Cost Curve: The Social Determinants of Health” will look at how tackling social determinants of health can help lower costs and improve health, particularly when it comes to health care systems such as hospitals and other networks. Continue reading

Panel to look at the economics of health disparities

Rebecca Morley

Jay Bhatt, D.O.

Much attention has focused lately on health care costs – from insurance premiums and the reform efforts to drug prices – but what about other efforts to address the cost curve by improving health in other ways? That’s the subject of one panel at AHCJ’s Health Journalism 2017 conference this month.

The panel, “Bending the cost curve: The social determinants of health,” will examine how addressing social determinants – such as income, access, education and social support – can help improve people’s health. We’ll discuss how circumstances shape population health, and the impact of behavior on wellness, disease risk and death. Continue reading