Tag Archives: disparities

Amid turmoil in Baltimore, a story of hidden health care gaps

Susan Heavey

About Susan Heavey

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

Images streaming from the recent unrest in Baltimore showed parts of a city in flames, buildings in ruins and turmoil in the streets following the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray April 19 while in police custody.

Park Avenue Pharmacy in Bolton Hill, Baltimore

Image by Taber Andrew Bain via flickr.

Less visible – perhaps with the exception of a burned and looted CVS – are the scars of limited access to health care in a city with deep pockets of poverty.

A city on the brink

First, a look at the big picture in Baltimore, Maryland’s biggest city with roughly 623,000 residents and glaring disparities in crime rates, income, education, housing – and health.

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ZIP code vs. genetic code: How to cover health inequality #ahcj15

Kris Hickman

About Kris Hickman

Kris Hickman (@the_index_case) is a graduate research assistant for AHCJ, pursuing a master’s degree in public health. She has a bachelor's degree in anthropology, with a minor in journalism, from the University of Missouri. She spent two years in Zambia as an HIV/AIDS community education volunteer in the Peace Corps. She aspires to be an epidemiologist and science writer.

Poverty is a poignant reality – and an overwhelming one. If you’re a reporter, you might struggle to find the story in health inequality.  But at Health Journalism 2015 in Santa Clara, Calif., panelists shed some light on the health disparity between high and low incomes – and who it hurts.

Nearby Silicon Valley has massive income inequality, and panelists from Northern California gave attendees some local perspective. The panel, moderated by independent journalist Sheree Crute, explored how wealth influences health, as well as how to provide – and cover – health care in an impoverished community.

Luisa Buada, R.N., M.P.H., chief executive officer, Ravenswood Family Health Center, said the top earners in Silicon Valley can make $3,500 a week and the mean cost of a home is $855,000, but 86 percent of patients in her clinic are at or below 100 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL).

“We’re living in a place of extraordinary poverty surrounded by extraordinary wealth,” Buada said at the April 25 panel. She described “another kind of homelessness,” in which low-income families are priced out of the astronomically expensive Silicon Valley. This creates a barrier to health care for those people, she said. Continue reading

In heart of Silicon Valley, a chance to spot health gaps #ahcj15

Susan Heavey

About Susan Heavey

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

Silicon Valley is the place of tech dreams and data wonders. But the city – one of the nation’s wealthiest areas – is also home to underlying health gaps. So perhaps it’s a fitting place to also examine the haves-and-have-nots of health care at AHCJ’s annual conference this week.

Sheree Crute

Sheree Crute

On Saturday, presenters will discuss how an area can suffer from health disparities when it comes to what care patients receive and how. In the session, “One Community, Two Worlds: Reporting on Health Inequality,” Luisa Buada, a registered nurse and chief executive of Ravenswood Family Health Center in East Palo Alto, California, and Sarah Reyes, regional program manager for The California Endowment’s Building Healthy Communities initiative, will join San Jose Mercury News reporter Tracy Seipel to guide journalists in understanding such gaps. Continue reading

Native American tribe wields sales tax to promote healthier eating

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health, curating related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on oral health resources at mary@healthjournalism.org.

Image by  Mike Licht via flickr.

Image by Mike Licht via flickr.

Hoping to encourage healthier eating habits, leaders of the Navajo Nation have imposed a potentially precedent-setting tax on junk food and sodas.

The 27,000-square-mile territory, which extends into Utah, Arizona and New Mexico, as of April 1 added a 2-cent sales tax to an existing 5-cent sales tax on most goods sold there, Eliza Barclay reported for National Public Radio’s food blog, The Salt. Fresh fruits and vegetables sold on the reservation have been tax-free since October as part of the tribe’s healthy eating initiative. Continue reading

NYT maps how high health gaps lower the odds

Susan Heavey

About Susan Heavey

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

Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME). US Health Map. Seattle, WA: IHME, University of Washington, 2014. Available from http://vizhub.healthdata.org/us-health-map. (Accessed 4/14/2015)

Image: Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME). US Health Map. Seattle, WA: IHME, University of Washington, 2014. (Accessed 4/14/2015)

The impact of “income inequality” has been given a closer examination since the recession and is teeing up as a potential catchphrase in the 2016 election.

While poorer pockets of the United States is a well-known factor that can lead to poor health (among other issues), less clear has been the ramifications of living somewhere home to both the wealthy and those the low-income, thus creating a gap. Continue reading

Susan Heavey to lead AHCJ’s core topic on social determinants

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates social media efforts of AHCJ and assists with the editing and production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

Susan Heavey

Susan Heavey

Susan Heavey, a journalist who covered health care regulation and policy before focusing on the intersection of health, poverty and demographics, will lead AHCJ’s core topic on social determinants and disparities in health.

Her goal is to  provide AHCJ members the resources they need to cover the root causes of health care gaps by writing blog posts, tip sheets, articles and other material.

While on the beat at Reuters, she wrote about everything from brain stimulation and clot-grabbing snake-like devices to drug safety and biosimilars. She also helped cover Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act. Her work has appeared on reuters.com, been picked up by The Washington Post, The New York Times, CNBC and other outlets, and led news websites for Yahoo! and Google. She also previously wrote about health for washingtonpost.com and KidsHealth.  Continue reading

Posts about Ebola, oral health, ethics and data among year’s top reads

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates social media efforts of AHCJ and assists with the editing and production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

As we close out 2014, take a look back at the most popular Covering Health posts of the year:

Thanks for reading and contributing ideas and comments this year!

In sad, compelling stories, journalists are documenting a mental health care system in crisis

Joseph Burns

About Joseph Burns

Joseph Burns (@jburns18), a Massachusetts-based independent journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health insurance. He welcomes questions and suggestions on insurance resources and tip sheets at joseph@healthjournalism.org.

Photo: Jan Bommes via Flickr

Photo: Jan Bommes via Flickr

Imagine the outcry if patients with cancer or any other chronic condition lacked standard, appropriate care. Such ill treatment would not be tolerated.

Yet the U.S. health care system routinely fails to provide basic care to Americans with mental illness, says Patrick J. Kennedy, a former congressman from Rhode Island and co-founder of One Mind, an organization seeking new treatments for neurologic and psychiatric diseases of the brain.

For a series of articles in USA Today, Liz Szabo quoted Kennedy on mental health care in America: “The failure to provide treatment and supportive services to people with mental illness – both in the community and in hospitals – has overburdened emergency rooms, crowded state and local jails and left untreated patients to fend for themselves on city streets.”

The burden of inadequate mental health care falls on individuals and families, but also on emergency rooms, hospitals, jails and other institutions, making this topic well worth the rich and deep coverage Szabo and other journalists have committed to it. Such coverage is important, as reporters have found in Colorado, Idaho, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin, and it can be rewarding because it forces journalists to confront and explain some most challenging health care issues in our society. Continue reading

How, and why, some schools provide dental care for needy children

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health, curating related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on oral health resources at mary@healthjournalism.org.

In a series of stories, “The Burden of Poverty: A Backpack of Heartache,” reporters at the School News Network, based in Grand Rapids, Mich., are exploring the deep challenges poverty creates for local students and their families as well as strategies schools are employing to helping disadvantaged students succeed.

Articles in the series so far have examined the correlation between low test scores and low income and have provided a candid look at the struggles of a nearly homeless honor student. The series has highlighted the ways schools are trying to address the health disparities that can make it harder for poor children to succeed in school.

One recent story looked at the role school nurses play in helping poor children cope with chronic diseases. A Nov. 14 piece explains how a school-based dental program attends to the oral health needs of children who might otherwise be distracted from their studies by the debilitating pain of untreated dental disease. Continue reading

Interactive atlases can help coverage of Diabetes Awareness Month

Kris Hickman

About Kris Hickman

Kris Hickman (@the_index_case) is a graduate research assistant for AHCJ, pursuing a master’s degree in public health. She has a bachelor's degree in anthropology, with a minor in journalism, from the University of Missouri. She spent two years in Zambia as an HIV/AIDS community education volunteer in the Peace Corps. She aspires to be an epidemiologist and science writer.

Sometimes it’s difficult to get a handle on major health determinants in your community, and it’s even harder to make them come alive in a story. Straightforward statistics can be dry or intimidating, while percentages and frequencies might fail to resonate.

So how can you give your readers, viewers or listeners a little extra background information without boring them to sleep? Interactive atlases are an effective way to do this – they can provide stories with both images and some enriched perspective. November is National Diabetes Awareness Month, and mapping tools like the CDC Diabetes Atlas provide a visual representation of diabetes in the U.S. The Diabetes Atlas helps to illustrate both diabetes and its many determinants using four indicators:

  • Diagnosed diabetes
  • Diagnosed diabetes incidence
  • Obesity
  • Leisure-time physical inactivity

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