Levey: Reporters can change health care debate by telling communities’ stories

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Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

Noam Levey

Noam Levey

Journalists can do better educating the public about health reform and our system of health care, according to Noam Levey, a national health care reporter with the Los Angeles Times/Tribune Washington Bureau.

In the Journal of the American Medical Association, Levey offers some specific suggestions for improving public understanding of health policy, including presenting information in question-and-answer pieces, presenting issues in a less political context and relying on trusted sources rather than politicians.

Levey also puts the challenges of communicating about health policy in a broader context:

“The health care debate in recent years has become a proxy for a much broader, more fundamental dispute about the role of government.”

The article recognizes the “Cost of Diabetes” series by Rhiannon Meyers of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, noting that “reporting that probes what is happening in communities with the best outcomes can help establish expectations for what good health care should look like. Coverage of what is missing in the worst-performing communities can support more informed debate about public policy approaches to foster improvement.”

Levey will be doing similar work looking at the effects of local health policy choices through a set of profiles of communities from Maine to Hawaii. “The series will examine several top-performing places where high rates of insurance coverage, collaborative work by medical practitioners and organizations, and leadership from businesses have helped improve outcomes. Other stories will examine underperforming communities where a lack of local leadership has contributed to poor health.”

Meyers and Levey are doing those projects as part of their yearlong Reporting Fellowship on Health Care Performance sponsored by the Association of Health Care Journalists and supported by The Commonwealth Fund.

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