Renee FabianExpires January 31, 2020 | Log out

Join or renew today

AHCJ Awards

The Awards for Excellence in Health Care Journalism recognize the best health reporting in print, broadcast and online media. The contest is run by journalists for journalists and is not influenced or funded by commercial or special-interest groups.

The contest features a variety of categories and entries can include a wide range of health coverage including public health, consumer health, medical research, the business of health care and health ethics.

Contest entrants fill out a questionnaire that details how they reported the work they are submitting. AHCJ posts those questionnaires with the entries, allowing other journalists to learn about new sources, get story ideas and do similar reporting in their own communities.

Select a year to see past winners:

Awards for Excellence in Health Care Journalism: 2014 winners

Beat Reporting


First Place: Liz Kowalczyk's 2014 Body of Work; Liz Kowalczyk, The Boston Globe

• "Donor's Death Shatters Family, Stuns Surgeons" examines the life and death of a 56-year-old liver donor at Lahey Clinic, only the third fatality of a living liver donor in the US. It provides a behind-the-scenes narrative of Paul Hawk's decision to donate part of his liver to his brother-in-law and the breakdown in the family after he died. The story finds that the potential impact on family relationships is rarely discussed during the informed consent process for living donors and that transplant centers are sometimes more focused on the health and well-being of recipients than donors. It also documents resistance in the industry to developing more stringent informed consent rules and medical evaluation procedures for living donors.
• "A Warning, A Delayed Repair, A Patient Dies" describes the state's refusal to provide money to install safety windows in a hospital for the mentally-ill, despite warnings of the risk, leading to a patient jumping to his death. It found that the state did not approve funds for the safety glass until the day after the patient died.
• "Surgical Error at Tufts Prompts Widespread Changes" chronicles the missteps leading to a fatal medical error for a 74-year-old woman undergoing elective surgery, including the surgeon's "cognitive bias," which led him to misread the label on the operating room drug that caused her death. The story also uncovered limitations in Massachusetts' efforts to reform the medical malpractice system.
• "Marathon Bombing Victim Builds on Her Recovery" describeds how a teenage victim in the bombing, who had not previously shared her story, fought to save her mangled leg, despite the skepticism of her doctors."

Judges' comments: Liz Kowalczyk's stories offer vivid narratives, clear knowledge of hospital systems, impressive access to intimate details, dogged pursuit of hard-to-get information and documents based on her experience with the field. In other words, excellent beat reporting.

AHCJ members: Log in to see the archived story and the questionnaire about how the entry was reported.

Second Place: Erika Check Hayden's 2014 Body of Work; Erika Check Hayden, Nature, Wired

Ebola was one of the major global crises of 2014, and Erika Check Hayden pursued the story of this crisis all the way to Sierra Leone, one of the three countries hit hardest by the outbreak. Erika's beat at Nature encompasses infectious disease, and she drew on her many years of experience on that beat in her coverage of the epidemic. She told the story of an international team of doctors and scientists that fought to conduct potentially lifesaving research on Ebola even as the disease claimed the lives of their colleagues in Sierra Leone. Other pieces provided a front-line account of how cultural practices complicated the Ebola fight, told the story of nurses who survive Ebola return to help others and showed how nurses are shunned by their communities and how the team she covered in "Ebola's lost ward" has begun new research to develop drugs to treat the disease.

AHCJ members: Log in to see the archived story and the questionnaire about how the entry was reported.

Third Place: Nurith Aizenman's 2014 Body of Work; Nurith Aizenman, NPR

Nurith Aizenman went to west Africa to cover the Ebola crisis. Her stories include:
• Breaking news about a riot triggered by a quarantine, covered in the midst of considerable time pressure and physical danger, that explained the larger context of public health policies
• An explanation of why people with diseases other than Ebola were avoiding hospitals and why hospitals were becoming hotspots of transmission
• A straightforward account of what was fast becoming a commonplace ritual in Monrovia — the arrival of a body collection team to remove the latest Ebola victim from a neighborhood
• A story highlighting the fact that, while the situation in Liberia had improved, Sierra Leone was experiencing a sudden surge of infections in its capital and areas to the north

AHCJ members: Log in to see the archived story and the questionnaire about how the entry was reported.

Trade Publications/Newsletters


First Place: Ebola's Lost Ward; Erika Check Hayden, Nature

When the worst Ebola outbreak in history hit Sierra Leone last year, most foreigners who could leave, did leave. But one international team of doctors and scientists stayed, fighting to conduct potentially lifesaving research on the disease – even as the virus claimed the lives of doctors, nurses and others on the team. "Ebola's lost ward" was the first feature to tell the story of this medical team and its increasingly personal struggle against the deadly virus. The piece highlights the great courage and humanity of health care workers under the worst of conditions, and illuminates the devastating toll of the outbreak on health care and the medical research that could help prevent future epidemics. An accompanying video tells the story of loss and courage through the lens of doctor and geneticist Pardis Sabeti, and the song she wrote in memory of her fallen colleagues.

Judges' comments: This moving, well-structured article calls attention to the sacrifices made by medical professionals on the front lines of the fight against infectious diseases. Also, the video demonstrated good use of multiple media techniques to tell a story.

AHCJ members: Log in to see the archived story and the questionnaire about how the entry was reported.

Second Place: Why Are Drug Costs So High in the United States?; Roxanne Nelson, Medscape

The United States has the dubious honor of paying the highest costs for drugs in the world, even compared with other wealthy nations, such as Canada, Germany, and Japan. The difference in price can often be substantial, especially among the newer and very costly agents that have recently come on the market.

AHCJ members: Log in to see the archived story and the questionnaire about how the entry was reported.

Third Place: Rush to Robotic Surgery Outpaces Medical Evidence, Critics Say; Richard Mark Kirkner, Managed Care Magazine

The growth of robotic operations has exploded in recent years, but a host of nonmedical factors, namely marketing by hospitals and the robot maker itself along with the desire of surgeons to embrace technology, seem to be playing an outsized role in patients’ decisions to have robotic surgery. This cover story explored the economics of robotic surgery in the context of recent medical evidence of two popular robotic operations: radical prostatectomy and hysterectomy. 

AHCJ members: Log in to see the archived story and the questionnaire about how the entry was reported.

Business (large)


First Place: Precious Pills; Robert Langreth, Bloomberg News

Everyone knows drug prices are going up, but it is hard to find specific data showing just how fast some individual prices are rising. In a breakthrough analysis, Bloomberg tracked down historical data for all big-selling brand name drugs in the U.S. and found dozens whose price had doubled in just seven years. As a result of the soaring prices, we found that patients increasingly encounter tough measures by insurers, including outright bans. In some cases, the prices are so high – $5,000 a month or more – that patients who are covered still can't afford copays that are based on a percentage of the price.

Judges' comments: Langreth's reporting established that dozens of best-seller brand-name drugs for cancer, arthritis and other diseases have been marked up 200% or more in the past seven years by corporations trying to maintain their profit margins as other drugs go off-patent. To show the markup, Langreth had to track down a drug-price database through a subscriber willing to disclose it. He talked to many patients who needed to stay on the drugs but found it difficult or impossible to pay the marked-up rates. His series was followed by other news outlets – notably, 60 Minutes – and Senate hearings. In pursuing the story, Langreth says he spoke to more than 110 doctors and industry experts.

AHCJ members: Log in to see the archived story and the questionnaire about how the entry was reported.

Second Place: The Medicare Advantage Money Grab; Fred Schulte, David Donald and Erin Durkin, The Center for Public Integrity

“The Medicare Advantage Money Grab” revealed nearly $70 billion in “improper” Medicare payments to the health plans from 2008 through 2013. The investigation exposed how federal officials missed multiple opportunities to corral tens of billions of dollars in overcharges and other billing errors tied to inflated risk scores. We also showed how the industry has turned to questionable home visits and sophisticated “data mining” analysis of patient medical records to raise risk scores even further with little government oversight. Our analysis of risk score growth used government data for the first time to plot changes in risk scores at more than 5,700 health plans in 3,000 counties nationwide between 2007 and 2011. We published two interactive graphic devices that allowed readers to view these changes by county and states for the first time.

AHCJ members: Log in to see the archived story and the questionnaire about how the entry was reported.

Third Place: MIA in the War on Cancer: Where Are the Low-Cost Treatments?; Jake Bernstein, ProPublica

In the war against cancer, Pharma is betting on new blockbuster cancer drugs that cost billions to develop and can be sold for thousands of dollars a dose. Left behind are low-cost alternatives – often existing off-label medications, including generics – that have shown some merit but don't have enough profit potential for drug companies to invest in researching their anti-cancer properties. 

AHCJ members: Log in to see the archived story and the questionnaire about how the entry was reported.

Investigative (large)


First Place: Big Oil, Bad Air; Staff, InsideClimate News, The Center for Public Integrity, The Weather Channel

Texas lies at the epicenter of the nation’s hydraulic fracturing – fracking – boom. What began in the Barnett Shale of North Texas 15 years ago has spread to the Eagle Ford Shale of South Texas and across the United States, to include regions unaccustomed to dealing with the fossil fuel industry. Until early 2014, the national media had paid little attention to the frenzy of drilling in the Eagle Ford, one of the most active shale plays in the world. It seemed the right place for us to explore a little-discussed yet critical aspect of the boom: toxic air emissions associated with wells, compressor stations and processing plants.

In February 2014, InsideClimate News, the Center for Public Integrity and The Weather Channel published the first installments in what would become a 20-month investigative project: “Big Oil, Bad Air.”

Judges' comments: Amid competitive entries, “Big Oil, Bad Air” stood out for its penetrating reporting, eloquent writing and disturbing findings. Much has been written about contaminated drinking water caused by shale drilling. But this series focused instead on the airborne pollutants that have harmed the health and destroyed the well being of rural families in the vast Eagle Ford region of Texas. The eight-month long investigation found that, with the aid of oil-and-gas-friendly legislators, drilling permits skyrocketed and regulation decreased. As a result, the numerous fracking sites there have emitted ever-more toxic plumes that have sickened the local population.

AHCJ members: Log in to see the archived story and the questionnaire about how the entry was reported.

Second Place: Culture of Fear; Jeff Baillon and Tyler Ryan, KMSP-Minneapolis/St. Paul

This yearlong series of investigative reports uncovers disturbing details of a horrific suicide and two murders surrounding psychiatric research at the University of Minnesota. A hospital insider came forward with secret recordings which portray a "culture of fear" and a "research at all costs" attitude in which the wellbeing of extremely vulnerable patients takes a back seat to having them participate in drug trials.

AHCJ members: Log in to see the archived story and the questionnaire about how the entry was reported.

Third Place: Harsh Treatment; David Jackson, Gary Marx and Duaa Eldeib, Chicago Tribune

They are mostly African-American kids, forgotten and discarded – state wards who have suffered abuse and neglect. Illinois officials send them by the thousands to live in residential treatment centers promising skilled therapy and close supervision. These taxpayer-financed institutions boast of restoring and even saving young lives. But the horrific conditions inside were hidden from the public and even many government regulators until a yearlong Chicago Tribune investigation used confidential documents and sensitive interviews with youths to pierce the secrecy that surrounds the most troubled facilities. "Harsh Treatment" revealed assaults, rapes, prostitution, drug use and kids lost to the streets.

AHCJ members: Log in to see the archived story and the questionnaire about how the entry was reported.

Investigative (small)


First Place: Unregulated Tests; Beth Daley, New England Center for Investigative Reporting

A growing, unregulated subset of diagnostic tests is leading to patient harm because of misdiagnoses and misunderstandings by doctors and patients. Several Lyme disease tests that have never proven to work are prompting patients to take years of unnecessary, expensive and harmful antibiotics. A new generation of prenatal screening tests is prompting some abortions of healthy fetuses because of a lack of FDA oversight, a highly competitive market and doctors’ misunderstanding of complex statistics.

Judges' comments: The clear winner of the field. An ambitious investigation that has the potential to impact thousands of people.

AHCJ members: Log in to see the archived story and the questionnaire about how the entry was reported.

Second Place: Killers & Pain; Mary Beth Pfeiffer, The Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Journal

Mary Beth Pfeiffer explored and exposed a painkiller abuse epidemic whose devastation cannot be understated: 22,000 American lives lost in 2012 in overdoses from prescribed drugs like oxycodone. While the story has been told before, Pfeiffer broke new ground. She laid blame on doctors and on New York's prime agency that regulated them; called officials to account for a law that sent users flocking to heroin; and, importantly, humanized an epidemic that has ravaged communities served by the Poughkeepsie Journal.

AHCJ members: Log in to see the archived story and the questionnaire about how the entry was reported.

Third Place: Too Risky to Transplant; Markian Hawryluk, The Bend (Ore.) Bulletin

A change in Medicare conditions of participation for organ transplant program to evaluate centers based on their one-year survival rates has prompted centers to reject riskier transplant candidates and to discard less-than-perfect organs that could be used to save lives. Transplant rates in the U.S. have plateaued as a result of the change.

AHCJ members: Log in to see the archived story and the questionnaire about how the entry was reported.

Consumer/Feature (large)


First Place: What's Wrong With Robotic Surgery?; Laura Beil, Men's Health

The story examined the unchecked rise of robotic surgery, especially with regard to prostate removal, why this has occurred, and whether the trend is good for both patients and the medical system in general. Beil looked at whether robotic surgery is a bonafide advance, or whether it is a phenomenon that has arisen from a sophisticated (and often hidden) marketing campaign to patients and doctors. She used FDA and legal documents to explore concerns over the safety of the procedure. 

Judges' comments: Laura Beil used extensive documentation – legal filings, FDA databases, FOI-requested government reports – to create an impressive investigation into the safety and cost-effectiveness of robotic surgery, a common technique controlled by a single manufacturer. Her interviews with patients, doctors, lawyers, policy experts and the maker of the pricey robot tied together a poignant look into the rapid adoption of new a medical technology. The package features clear writing along with practical recommendations for the tens of thousands of people who will undergo robotic surgery in the U.S. each year. 

AHCJ members: Log in to see the archived story and the questionnaire about how the entry was reported.

Second Place: Murray's Problem; Mark Johnson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The story describes Marquette University scientist Murray Blackmore’s journey to the field of spinal cord injury research, showing how his work was shaped by his mother's spinal cord injury and depicting the conflict between his deeply personal desire to find a cure and science’s demand for detachment and rigor.

AHCJ members: Log in to see the archived story and the questionnaire about how the entry was reported.

Third Place: Cancer's Super-Survivors: How the Promise of Immunotherapy Is Transforming Oncology; Ron Winslow, The Wall Street Journal

After decades of disappointment, drugs that enable the immune system to attack cancer are emerging as a powerful treatment for some patients. Hundreds of people who only a few years ago would likely have died are now surviving for years because of immunotherapy. The story explains the science underlying the treatments and tracks the often surprising experiences of several patients to show how researchers are trying to expand the benefits of cancer immunotherapy to more patients and a wide range of cancers.

AHCJ members: Log in to see the archived story and the questionnaire about how the entry was reported.

Consumer/Feature (small)


First Place: An Impossible Choice; Joanne Faryon, Brad Racino and Lorie Hearn, inewsource

inewsource discovered and exposed a world – little known even within the medical field – where more than 4,000 people are kept alive on machines. Reporter Joanne Faryon and videographer Brad Racino revealed this network of “vent farms” to the nation through documents, data and unprecedented access to a facility in San Diego County that is home to people spending years, sometimes more than a decade, on life support. Most are not conscious and haven’t tasted food in years. They are dependent on others to brush their teeth, comb their hair and change their diapers. More than 120 such places in California exist. They are the end of the line, the place people go once medicine has saved them, but where there is little hope for recovery. This inewsource investigation, called “An Impossible Choice,” posed the point-blank question faced by an increasing number of people across the country: When is a life no longer worth living?

Judges' comments: This never-before-seen view into the daily operations of California’s “vent farms” — special nursing home units where patients are kept on life suppor t— examines their cost to taxpayers, patients and families. Most of the people who live in the facilities, Joanne Faryon writes, “will spend the rest of their lives in bed, their bodies twisted from muscle contractures, tubes permanently inserted in their throats and stomachs, completely dependent on others to brush their teeth, comb their hair…. And there is the grief — heartless and relentless — of the loved ones left behind.”

AHCJ members: Log in to see the archived story and the questionnaire about how the entry was reported.

Second Place: The Cost of Life; Justine Griffin, Sarasota (Fla.) Herald-Tribune

Reporter Justine Griffin's personal mission to honor a childhood friend through egg donation evolved into a narrative about her experience. She found that the topic – which targets young females – had gone largely unreported. Among her findings: 
• One of the most commonly prescribed invitro fertilization drugs, Lupron, is used off label, or not for its intended purpose. The drug was developed to treat men with prostate issues and has been used for chemical castration.
• Universities with medical school programs are home to reproductive endocrinology departments that make enough money from IVF treatments to fund entire schools within the university. Generally, fertility doctors are among the highest-paid employees at private universities.
• Meanwhile more women are experiencing ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, a painful side effect when ovaries produce too many eggs. Others experienced irreversible outcomes after donating, like infertility and endometriosis. The Cost of Life blends Justine’s reporting with the anxieties and struggles she endured while living this story. 

AHCJ members: Log in to see the archived story and the questionnaire about how the entry was reported.

Third Place: Opening up: The Evolving World of Surgery; Ruthann Richter, Stanford Medicine Magazine

The story follows the path of a senior resident in surgery at Stanford, using her story to illustrate the dramatic changes in recent years in the practice of surgery and in the lives of surgeons. These trainees are on the cusp of a new era in the field and have feet both in the world of big, open-hole procedures done amidst an operating room culture dominated by men and today’s minimalist approach to surgery and its more collaborative and inclusive environment. The story also touches on changes in surgical training that have caused much controversy and how the OR doors have gradually opened to women. Throughout the discussion, the story traces the unusual career path of the surgical resident and takes us into the OR as she does her surgical "dance" with a seasoned trauma surgeon.

AHCJ members: Log in to see the archived story and the questionnaire about how the entry was reported.

Health Policy (large)


First Place: Medicare Unmasked; Staff, The Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal forced the government to publicly release important data that had been kept secret for decades, and analyzed it to uncover extensive medical abuses that cost taxpayers. Persistent reporting and a successful Journal lawsuit against the government led the U.S. in April to release Medicare billing by doctors and others to the public for the first time since the late 1970s. This triggered a sweeping WSJ investigation into the $600 billion federal system.

In the process, the Journal has struck a major blow for gaining accessibility to government data at a time when the Obama administration is fighting to keeping information closely held from the media and public.

A team of reporters and data experts created numerous programs to analyze the numbers and make sense of them all. They developed new features to enhance the Journal’s database search tool and make it even more engaging and useful for consumers. The effort helped generate a series of interactive graphics, charts and other art.

Judges' comments: “Medicare Unmasked’’ had all the hallmarks of terrific public service journalism: brilliant news instincts, aggressive pursuit of public records, and masterful writing on a dense topic to show readers how doctors were billing the public for millions of dollars in questionable procedures. But its contribution went well beyond eight strong stories. The Journal forced the government to release Medicare documents in a way that helped dozens of other newsrooms and produced a powerful wave of follow-up stories.

AHCJ members: Log in to see the archived story and the questionnaire about how the entry was reported.

Second Place: The Cost of Not Caring; Staff, USA Today

This nine-part examined what the country pays for ignoring the needs of the 10 million Americans with serious mental illness and failing to repair the country’s crumbling mental health system. We found that the country spends far more by neglecting the mentally ill than it would by providing decent care and services, for example. The human cost of neglect is even greater, with nearly 600,000 Americans with mental illness end up incarcerated, homless or dead every year.

AHCJ members: Log in to see the archived story and the questionnaire about how the entry was reported.

Third Place: How Obamacare Went South In Mississippi; Sarah Varney, Kaiser Health News/Politico Magazine

This story is an examination of the systemic governmental failures of the first year of implementation of the Affordable Care Act in Mississippi, the nation’s poorest, least-healthy and most segregated state. Using extensive on-the-ground interviews, close analysis of the state’s health-care performance, its complicated political past and current political crosswinds, “How Obamacare Went South In Mississippi” uncovered a series of cascading problems, including bumbling errors and misinformation; ignorance and disorganization; a haunting racial divide; and, above all, the unyielding ideological imperative of conservative politics. 

AHCJ members: Log in to see the archived story and the questionnaire about how the entry was reported.

Health Policy (small)


First Place: The Kindness of Strangers: Inside Elder Guardianship in Florida; Barbara Peters Smith, Sarasota Herald-Tribune

With an estimated 50 percent of Americans 85 and older experiencing cognitive impairment, the longevity boom has generated an increase in the number of elders who are deemed too frail or mentally compromised to handle their affairs. Most states, including Florida, have cobbled together an efficient way to identify and care for helpless elders, using the probate court system to place them under guardianship. But critics say this system – easily set in motion, notoriously difficult to stop – often ignores basic civil rights. They describe a ruthless determination to take elders from their homes and make them conform to a process by which their belongings can be sold, and their family and friends shut out – until eventually they are locked away in institutions to decline and die. Critics call this process “liquidate, isolate, medicate.” Through case studies, examining court documents and talking to those working for elder justice reform, we found consistent patterns of a lack of due process, an unwillingness to inform and involve family members, a one-size-fits-all approach to elders with diverse levels of capacity, substandard care for wards who lack assets, and high legal and professional fees for wards who have considerable assets. Fundamentally, the system treats elders as second-class citizens, before stripping them of citizenship altogether and rendering them as non-persons.

Judges' comments: "Liquidate, isolate, medicate." As powerfully described by Herald-Tribune reporter Barbara Peters Smith, this is the formula used to manage many infirm elderly residents of Florida, which can demand guardianship – and control over one's assets – even when those people or family members are willing and able to handle that role. This is a beautifully written, well sourced series and because of it, a woman locked in an assisted-living facility regained her civil rights.

AHCJ members: Log in to see the archived story and the questionnaire about how the entry was reported.

Second Place: Rural hospitals face emergency; Lauren Sausser, The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier

While hospitals in urban parts of the state are breaking ground on new buildings and pulling in millions of dollars in profits every year, rural hospitals in South Carolina and across the country have struggled to stay open on thin operating margins, been forced to merge with larger systems or close completely. Lauren Sausser reported this larger story through the prism of one rural hospital in Allendale County, which has the lowest occupancy rate in the whole state and whose longtime administrator will soon retire.

AHCJ members: Log in to see the archived story and the questionnaire about how the entry was reported.

Third Place: True Cost of Care; Patrick Malone, The Santa Fe New Mexican

Hospitals in New Mexico, on average, charge 547 percent the actual cost of performing medical services for outpatients, and 223 percent the actual cost of services provided to inpatients, according to analysis of Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services data. One for-profit hospital chain was responsible for the highest sticker prices, nearing 900 percent markups for outpatients and topping 475 percent for inpatients. This report exposed how those seemingly arbitrary prices affect patients with commercial insurance as well as uninsured patients, and the role pricing plays in hospitals’ charitable status, which can shift local tax burdens to other taxpayers.

AHCJ members: Log in to see the archived story and the questionnaire about how the entry was reported.

Public Health (large)


First Place: Collateral Damage; Andrea K. McDaniels, The (Baltimore) Sun

Crime in Baltimore has been chronicled extensively, but largely through the lens of the criminal justice system. Mostly invisible from the coverage are the stories of those left behind when the ambulances drive off and the crime scenes are cleaned up. The Baltimore Sun series "Collateral Damage" worked to tell those stories. The three-part series sought to show how violence in Baltimore has wreaked havoc on the health of tens of thousands of people that span generations. They are the kids who can’t concentrate in school because their bodies are stressed out from the constant sound of gunshots. They are the families who become instant caregivers to gunshot victims and the moms stunted by grief after losing their sons to murder. Among the personal stories of these groups, she presented the latest research on how the chronic stress of the situations impacted people's health. The series sought to shed light on a problem that is right before readers' eyes, but still so hidden from their consciousness.

Judges' comments: In Baltimore, violence has many victims. Many of them, though, are unseen. This series of articles tells the stories of the parents, siblings and children of violent crime victims – those who are left behind after the ambulance drives off – and how their suffering impacts their lives and heath. McDaniels weaves deep science reporting together with gripping human stories to shed light on this important but often overlooked public health issue.

AHCJ members: Log in to see the archived story and the questionnaire about how the entry was reported.

Second Place: Hooked: America's Heroin Epidemic; Kate Snow and Janet Klein, NBC News

In a wide-ranging series of reports across all the platforms of NBC News, a team of producers and reporters set out to explore the depth of the heroin epidemic in the United States. The number of heroin users in America nearly doubled from 2007-2012, and every other leading indicator has increased sharply, as well – from arrests and drug seizures to treatment populations to deaths. The team wanted to put a face on the problem, search for potential solutions, and challenge outdated assumptions about the crisis in this country.

AHCJ members: Log in to see the archived story and the questionnaire about how the entry was reported.

Third Place: Surviving through age 18 in Detroit; Karen Bouffard, The Detroit News

This began as a project with USC-Annenberg’s National Health Journalism Fellowship and grew into a yearlong series focused on maternal and child health in Detroit. Bouffard's goal was to quantify how the hardships and health risks faced by Detroit children impact their chances of surviving childhood.

She collected and analyzed data on Detroit child deaths through age 18 from all causes and found that prematurity and homicide are the greatest causes of child deaths in the city. Working with state health department across the country, Bouffard collected data on child death rates in other large cities and found that Detroit has the highest total child death rate, and the highest child homicide rate, among all cities its size and larger in the United States. The findings were published in an initial two-day special report that focused on the deadly combination of health risks in Detroit, and projects underway to improve maternal and child health, improve access to health care, and heal families affected by trauma. The continuing series honed in on other aspects of Detroit’s public health crises, from high rates of abortion and maternal death caused by lack of access to health care, to tens of thousands of Detroit kids with untreated asthma.

AHCJ members: Log in to see the archived story and the questionnaire about how the entry was reported.

Public Health (small)


First Place: The Risks of Home Birth; Markian Hawryluk, The Bend (Ore.) Bulletin

Women often avoid hospital births in fear of a medicalized birth experience, but are generally unaware of the very high risks associated with home birth.

Judges' comments: "The Risks of Home Birth" takes a significant, national health problem and uses peer-reviewed or government data combined with personal, local examples to tell a compelling story. The reporters use clear, concise, and nonjudgmental language in their work, bringing attention to a public health concern that few understand.

The article is beautifully presented, with large illustrative photos, charts, and sidebars to guide readers through the material.

AHCJ members: Log in to see the archived story and the questionnaire about how the entry was reported.

Second Place: Russia's Hidden Epidemic; Simeon Bennett and Stepan Kravchenko, Bloomberg Markets

Russia is besieged by an HIV epidemic that's largely invisible to the outside world. Medical professionals blame this public-health crisis on an unchecked outbreak among injecting drug users and President Vladimir Putin's refusal to accept outside help. Putin's government has turned away international aid while banning methadone, needle exchanges and other proven HIV prevention strategies. As a result, 21 percent of the world’s HIV-positive injecting drug users live in the country and new cases are rising faster there than any nation with a large number of infected people, including South Africa. The story documents Russia's health emergency through people living under Putin's policies.

AHCJ members: Log in to see the archived story and the questionnaire about how the entry was reported.

Third Place: Pesticide use by farmers linked to high rates of depression, suicides; Brian Bienkowski, Environmental Health News

The story is about a farmer who committed suicide after years of handling pesticides and the increasing scientific evidence that long-term pesticide exposure can have mental health impacts such as depression.

AHCJ members: Log in to see the archived story and the questionnaire about how the entry was reported.