AHCJ member and former Aging Core Topic Leader Judith Graham wrote a terrific article for Kaiser Health News on the best states for senior health. Her approach to covering a United Health Foundation report of state-by-state rankings helped to make some complex data more digestible. Just as important, it’s a great impetus for some serious local reporting.
To compliment a breakdown of top and bottom states for senior health, Graham interviewed several external stakeholders for additional analysis of the report’s effect on a grassroots level and potential impact on health policy.
The evaluation of the report’s negative data – for example, fewer than 40 percent of seniors surveyed for the UHF report ranked their health as “good” or “very good,” is an approach that helps paint a better “big picture” view of senior health. It’s easy for reporters to pick up information from an executive summary or abstract but digging a little deeper to look for what’s NOT there makes a good story better.
It can be difficult, at times, to translate data into real-world meaningful terms that reporters can use but here, just a few concise, targeted paragraphs provided the breakdown of the numerous health and social issues seniors face. It’s an impetus to help reporters take any of these issues and run with them locally.
Several issues highlighted in the article, including the shortage of geriatricians in some states and widespread disparities in care between health systems, provides additional angles for local follow-up stories. An overview page allows for overall comparison by state, by specific chronic conditions, by year, and by statistic. Clicking on an individual state on the color-coded map or the state rankings tab produces pages with summaries of that state’s strengths, weaknesses, highlights, disparities and core measures. A look at future challenges and current health disparities round out available data. Users also have an option to trace back health rankings from 1990-2012 – another story idea seeing how far a state has come (or fallen behind) on key measures of senior’s health.
By drawing attention to the UHF report in a well-written, well-balanced, just-enough-detail article, Graham points health reporters toward a dozen or more ways to follow up and make a “state of” report mean more for seniors at a local level.