About AHCJ: General News

Winners of 2017 health journalism awards announced Date: 02/27/18

Columbia, MO. – Investigations into what’s causing global obesity, who’s blocking regulation of addictive pain pills and who’s raking in billions of dollars from “liquid gold” urine samples were among the top winners in this year’s Awards for Excellence in Health Care Journalism.

The 2017 awards were announced today by the Association of Health Care Journalists. This year’s contest, which was the 14th, drew more than 300 entries across 10 categories.

Helen Branswell of Stat took first place in the beat reporting category for her body of work covering infectious disease and public health issues.

ProPublica’s Marshall Allen took first place in the consumer feature category, large division, with an eye-popping examination of the hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of surplus drugs and new or barely used equipment that are tossed out by hospitals and nursing homes each year.

An exposé by the Washington Post and 60 Minutes of how pharmaceutical companies thwarted federal efforts to rein in the prescription drug abuse epidemic won first prize in the investigative category.

New York Times staffers won the top public health reporting prize by traveling the world to explain how Big Food and Big Soda have exported poor nutrition habits. First place in business went to a Kaiser Health News examination of how some doctors and health care companies are making billions of dollars by testing and re-testing urine samples for drugs.

Smaller outlets were also well represented.

Kerry Klein of Valley Public Radio in Fresno, Calif., won first place in the health policy category for small media outlets by showing why the San Joaquin Valley is severely short of doctors and other health care providers. Luanne Rife of the Roanoke Times in Virginia won first place in the consumer feature division for her work examining the choices people make at the end of life.

Those kinds of personal stories, combined with concrete context from experts, are what make health care reporting click with readers, listeners and viewers. Examples were woven throughout the entries submitted to the contest’s more than 50 judges, who are all either academics who teach journalism, or working and retired journalists.

“We’re thrilled to see such strong work continuing despite the challenges our industry is facing these days,” said contest co-chair Tony Leys, a Des Moines Register reporter and AHCJ board member. “Health care is one of the most complicated and controversial topics in our society, and it’s great to have so many top reporters digging into it.”

Leys’s co-chair of the contest committee is Julie Appleby, a senior correspondent at Kaiser Health News. In addition, the contest committee includes AHCJ members Blythe Bernhard, Charles Ornstein and Cate Vojdik.

The awards will be presented during a luncheon on April 14 at Health Journalism 2018, the association's annual conference, taking place this year in Phoenix. First-place winners will receive $500 plus registration and hotel accommodations at the conference. Some winners will speak on conference panels about their work.

See the complete list of winners and AHCJ members can read questionnaires filled out by the winners about how they did the reporting, including resources they used.

AHCJ is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing public understanding of health care issues. With about 1,500 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.