Snapshots from #ahcj13 | Rhonda Stewart

Which Health Journalism 2013 session did Rhonda Stewart like best? Hint: It involves global health.

The Health Journalism 2013 Conference might be organized by the Association of Health Care Journalists, but the event, in its 15th year, attracts more than print, radio and online reporters. It also draws people like Rhonda Stewart, a senior communications officer with the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle. (AHCJ allows a strictly limited number of public information officers to attend its conferences.)

This is the second AHCJ conference for Stewart, who served as a reporter for The Boston Globe and a news producer for Her first conference was two years ago in Philadelphia. At the time, she was working for a small global health nonprofit organization. While none of those sessions in 2011 dealt specifically with issues related to global health, Stewart was pleased to discover the 2013 conference featured a presentation about how to relate global health to a local audience.

The IHME produces a survey, The Global Burden of Disease: Generating Evidence, Guiding Policies. Stewart said 500 researchers worked on the survey, which covers 187 countries.

“It gives you a snapshot of health around the world — what is the leading cause of death (in the United States) or the leading health risk in Afghanistan,” Stewart said. The study is used widely by policymakers, researchers, scholars, journalists and “anyone interested in health and where trends are going.”

With IHME’s focus on global health, it probably is no surprise Stewart’s favorite session so far has been the one on bringing world health issues down to the local level. As a former reporter, Stewart said she understands the difficulties journalists face in trying to convince their editors to allow them to pursue a story that might seem foreign to the local readers.

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