About AHCJ: General News

2012 winners named in top health journalism awards Date: 02/25/13

Feb. 25, 2013

See more about each winner, including a summary of the entry. AHCJ members can click on the title of the entry to see the questionnaire about how the story was reported.

COLUMBIA, Mo. – An investigation revealing concerns about unnecessary treatments by private dental firms – along with stories showcasing the enormous financial toll of medical care and the cost of dying – were among the top winners of this year's Awards for Excellence in Health Care Journalism.

First-place awards also went to a series that investigated long-forgotten lead factories and the dangers they pose to nearby residents, coverage of the compounding pharmacy linked to the national outbreak of fungal meningitis, the toll obesity is taking on residents of one state and the effect of violence against those living with HIV.

Sheri Fink, a freelance reporter whose work appeared in The New York Times, ProPublica and the Times-Picayune of New Orleans, won first place in beat reporting for her coverage of hurricanes and their effects on the health care systems of New York City and New Orleans.

The 2012 awards, announced today by the Association of Health Care Journalists, recognize the best health reporting in 12 categories. This year, the contest’s ninth, had reporters compete across mediums in topic area categories, including public health, business and health policy. More than 400 entries were received, marking a new record.

"Entrants dove into complicated and sometimes heartbreaking issues to produce excellent pieces that are all the more powerful because they could affect any of us," said contest chair Julie Appleby, senior correspondent for the nonprofit Kaiser Health News.

AHCJ launched the awards program amid growing concern that too many journalism awards are sponsored by special interest groups that seek to sway media coverage. No health care companies or agencies fund AHCJ's awards program.

Contest entries were screened and judged by more than 45 working journalists or journalism professors. AHCJ board members and contest committee members were not eligible to enter the contest.

In addition to Appleby, the contest committee includes AHCJ members Naseem Miller, Cate Vojdik, Blythe Bernhard and Trudy Lieberman.

The awards will be presented during a luncheon March 16 at Health Journalism 2013, the association's annual conference, in Boston. First-place winners will receive $500 plus registration and hotel accommodations at the conference. Winners also will speak on conference panels about their work. 

AHCJ is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing public understanding of health care issues. With more than 1,400 members across the United States and around the globe, its mission is to improve the quality, accuracy and visibility of health care reporting, writing and editing. The association and its Center for Excellence in Health Care Journalism provide training, resources and a professional home for journalists. Its offices are based at the Missouri School of Journalism.

The winners are:Awards for Excellence in Health Care Journalism

Beat Reporting

First: Sheri Fink, independent journalist

Second: Jordan Rau, Kaiser Health News

Third: Donald G. McNeil Jr., The New York Times

Honorable mention: Carol Ostrom, The Seattle Times

Honorable mention: Carolyn Y. Johnson, The Boston Globe

Business (Large)

First: Dollars and Dentists; David Heath, Jill Rosenbaum, The Center for Public Integrity and PBS Frontline

Second: Medical Billing: A World of Hurt; Sarah Jane Tribble, Dave Davis, The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)

Third: Meet the Drug Dealer Who Helps Addicts Quit; Mara Zepeda, Alex Blumberg, Uri Berliner, National Public Radio's Morning Edition and National Public Radio's Planet Money Podcast

Honorable mention: How Fake Cancer Drugs Entered U.S.; Christopher Weaver, Jeanne Whalen, The Wall Street Journal

Honorable mention: Cost of Admission; Sam Hornblower, Steve Kroft, CBS News

Business (Small)

First: Ramon Rodriguez: The trials of a renegade CEO; Barbara Benson, Crain's New York Business

Second: Medicine Man; Andrea Gerlin, Allison Connolly, Stryker McGuire, Bloomberg Markets

Third: Risky Bonds Prove Costly for Carilion, Sarah Bruyn Jones, The Roanoke (Va.) Times

Honorable mention: Bedside Bankroll; Rachel Anna Dovey, North Bay Bohemian (Santa Rosa, Calif.)

Honorable mention: Your New Health Team . . . Half Way Around the World; Donald Edward Tepper, Chris Hayhurst, PT in Motion

Consumer/Feature (Large)

First: Cost of Dying; Lisa M. Krieger, Dai Sugano, San Jose Mercury News

Second: Chain Reaction; Kevin Sack, The New York Times

Third: A Rampant Prescription, a Hidden Peril; Kay Lazar, Matt Carroll, The Boston Globe

Honorable mention: Spray On Safety Ignored; Mark P. Greenblatt, Gitika Ahuja, Mollie Riegger, ABC News

Consumer/Feature (Small)

First: Healing the Hurt; Rita Rubin, POZ

Second: Gift from Grief; Michael Morton, MetroWest Daily News (Framingham, Mass.)

Third: Demand for Home Care Workers Soaring, But Will There Be Enough Takers?; Arielle Levin Becker, The Connecticut Mirror

Health Policy (Large)

First: The Crushing Cost of Care; Janet Adamy, Tom McGinty, The Wall Street Journal

Second: Cracking the Codes; Fred Schulte, Joe Eaton, David Donald, The Center for Public Integrity

Third: The Battle Over Women's Health in Texas; Emily Ramshaw, Pam Belluck, Thanh Tan, The Texas Tribune and The New York Times

Honorable mention: Cost of Dying; Lisa M. Krieger, Dai Sugano, San Jose Mercury News

Health Policy (Small)

First: The Automated External Defibrillator: Medical Marvel But Measurement Mystery; Hoag Levins, The LDI Health Economist Magazine

Second: Mental Breakdown; Jocelyn Wiener, Ken Carlson, Lauren Whaley, The Modesto (Calif.) Bee

Third: Importing Doctors; Kellie Ann Schmitt, Christine Bedell, Kent Kuehl, The Bakersfield Californian

Investigative (Large)

First: Ghost Factories; Alison Ann Young, John Hillkirk, Peter Eisler, USA Today

Second: Prognosis Profits; Joseph Charles Neff, Ames Alexander, Karen Garloch, The (Raleigh N.C.) News & Observer and The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer

Third: Playing With Fire; Patricia Callahan, Sam Roe, Michael Hawthorne, Chicago Tribune

Investigative (Small)

Special citation: 40% of High-Prescribing Docs Get Pharma Perks; Lisa Chedekel, The Connecticut Health Investigative Team

Special citation: Patients' Pain Pumps Fraught With Problems; Timothy Darragh, The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.)

Public Health (Large)

First: Coverage of Fungal Meningitis Outbreak Tied to Contaminated Drugs; Staff, The Boston Globe

Second: When Healthcare Makes You Sick; Peter Eisler, USA Today

Third: Drugs Plague Kentucky Infants; Laura Ungar, The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Ky.)

Honorable mention: Cancer's New Battleground: The Developing World; Joanne Silberner, David Baron, PRI’s The World

Public Health (Small)

First: The Shape We're In; Kate Long, Kyle Slagle, Dawn Miller, The Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette

Second: The Few. The Proud. The Afflicted.; Florence Williams, Mother Jones

Third: Danger On Your Dinner Plate; Stephanie Armour, John Lippert, Michael Smith, Bloomberg Markets


First: Health Care's Costliest 1 Percent; Haydn Bush, Hospitals & Health Networks

Second (tie): Missing Touch; Megan Scudellari, The Scientist

Second (tie): Facing the Facts: HPV-Associated Head and Neck Cancers Get a Second Look; Charlotte Huff, Cure

Honorable mention: Health Insurer Discloses, Deletes Political Spending; Sean P. Carr, Wayne Dalton, SNL Financial